Tempers were tested at the Elmont Library board meeting on Sept. 19. Patrick Nicolosi, the board’s vice president, left the meeting abruptly while library patron Tom Madera, of New Hyde Park, was speaking during the public session, and the meeting was immediately adjourned.
Madera, who regularly attends the monthly library meetings and has often spoken out against the board, used the public session to address a $100,000 state grant to the library that was recently rescinded. The grant, which had been made available to the library for an adult-child learning room in 2009, was redirected to the Elmont School District by State Sen. Jack Martins in June following a dispute in which the senator said that the board did not pursue the grant on time.
Madera, who said he had obtained email exchanges between the library’s business consultant, Frank Marino, and the state Dormitory Authority through the Freedom of Information Law, told the board that it did not act responsibly in securing the grant.
“The library dropped the ball on [the grant],” Madera told the Herald following the meeting. “I wasn’t there for Jack [Martins]. The board didn’t comply with the law. Jesus Christ could have given them that grant, and all they had to do was follow instructions. I hit a nerve.”
In a later email to the Herald, Madera compared Nicolosi’s sudden exit from meeting to a “petulant child going to his room.” He wrote that “Nicolosi put on a deplorable display at the meeting” and that “if he had any understanding [of] his role as trustee and a true desire to protect this library, he would keep on walking.”
Nicolosi, who said he suspected that the grant was redirected by Martins in part because he, Nicolosi, opposes a proposal for a soccer stadium at Belmont Park that Martins has endorsed, stood up while Madera spoke, and left after a brief exchange. Nicolosi later told the Herald that anyone following the history of the grant merely through email exchanges would be unable to understand what happened.
“[Madera] needs to stop it already,” Nicolosi said. “He doesn’t know the history, and no one has time for this. There’s no conspiracy, there’s nothing hidden. Why waste so much time? There’s no sense in accusing and badgering people.”
The meeting, which was moved to executive session because Nicolosi’s departure left only three trustees to conduct it — Monique Hardial and new members Gina Burnett and Tammie Williams — was subsequently adjourned. Hardial told Madera that he would be allowed to finish his comments at the October meeting. She told the Herald that she felt that Nicolosi acted on impulse and out of character.
“I do not have a comment other than to say that as trustees, the public sometimes fails to recognize that we are dedicating our time to the community,” Hardial said. “We are human and at times we react in ways that we wish we had not. Mr. Nicolosi is a very passionate trustee, and he did not agree with a comment made from a resident. Instead of engaging in an argument, Mr. Nicolosi removed himself.”
The meeting followed recent changes on the board. Former President Joanne Mazzeo may or may not have resigned, and she had stopped attending meetings in the weeks leading up to and following a shakeup of the board that saw Hardial take over as president. Nicolosi said that Mazzeo had sent a text message to a library employee declaring her resignation, but Hardial told the Herald that Mazzeo did not resign, and had been granted a leave of absence for reasons Hardial did not disclose.
Speculation about Mazzeo’s absence has continued since last month, when Trustee Kathleen Rau left suddenly. Rau’s resignation reduced the number of regularly attending trustees from seven to five.
Mazzeo was unavailable for comment.
Nicolosi said on Sept. 20 that he had sent a letter to the library apologizing for leaving the meeting.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 8 p.m.