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Editorial: What Kind Of Government Is This?

The behavior exhibited by Manorhaven Village Attorney Charles Casolaro at a recent public village board meeting was unprofessional and inappropriate. It was clear that he was attempting to use his position at the dais to intimidate a local resident and the newspaper into not printing any advertisement, letter or article that criticizes the work of the village board.

It is unusual for an un-elected village attorney to dominate a board meeting. Typically, mayors are elected to preside over their board and board meetings, but Mayor Giovanna Giunta spoke only a few words while Casolaro ran through all the agenda items and appeared to be conducting the meeting.

Casolaro’s claim that the ad signaled that Manorhaven is already in election season (the village election will be held in June), was, we believe, inappropriate. Village board meetings should be used to conduct village business, not to openly campaign against presumed political opponents.

Further along these lines, we reported Casolaro taking time during a public meeting to state: “We’re bringing legal action against [Port Washington News] and [Jim Avena] and Mr. Dejana, ‘cause you people are out of control. You don’t know a damn good thing when you see it.” This doesn’t seem like an appropriate use of government time and money. Announcing a potential lawsuit at a public board meeting suggests that it would be funded with taxpayer dollars. Should Manorhaven residents pay for legal action that attempts to prove the board is “a damn good thing”?

Or is the key point that “you people are out of control”? This would indicate an un-elected official using taxpayer dollars for a lawsuit seeking to control those who challenge him.

A few questions come to mind from this meeting:

- Why was an appointed official—who was not elected by village residents—controlling the village board meeting?

- Casolaro’s outburst detracted attention from the main question of Avena’s ad, which was “What are they hiding?” Was Casolaro creating a diversion to distract people from the criticisms in the ad?

- What kind of message does it send to other Manorhaven residents for the village attorney to verbally attack a local resident at a public meeting for exercising his First Amendment rights?

- Will other Manorhaven residents refrain from speaking up for fear of being denounced at a village board meeting?

- Is an arrangement that permits an appointed official to not only run a village board meeting, but also to try to silence the free press and local critics the kind of government residents want in Manorhaven?

- Katie Piacentini