Government patronage jobs: Time to stop pretending

Ed Mangano is sworn in as the new

Ed Mangano is sworn in as the new Nassau County Executive at Bethpage High School on Jan. 1, 2010. (Credit: Newsday File / Howard Schnapp)

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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Of all the convicted felons in Nassau County, County Executive Edward Mangano deemed only one worthy of a second chance - and a $90,000 job on the Nassau County payroll. And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Herberth Flores, the lucky felon, also helped the county executive wrangle the Latino vote during the campaign?

Coincidentally - or not - the county's also hired Flores' sister, who also helped Mangano's campaign, as a $40,000 administrative assistant.

Across the county border in Suffolk, of all the lawyers in the Town of Huntington, only one was deemed uniquely qualified for a part-time, $50,000-a-year post (with health care benefits and public pension) to join the town's legal office - at a time when the budget is so fragile that there's a townwide hiring and salary freeze on nonessential positions.

And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Democrat Stuart Besen, the lucky lawyer, also just happens to be a newly defeated council member in a Democrat-run town?

Back in Nassau, we hear that only one resident had the skills to rise to become the county's new parks commissioner.

That lucky fellow, Carnell Foskey, will be making the exact same salary - $130,625 - as the guy he replaced. The former commissioner, Jose Lopez, it turns out, is a very lucky guy, too. Despite a demotion to deputy commissioner, he'll keep making commissioner money. Which means that Nassau is getting two parks commissioners for the price of - ta-da! - two.

And yet Nassau residents are supposed to believe that Foskey's appointment had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the longtime Republican lost re-election to Family Court last year. Or that Mangano, as he promised, is leaving no stone unturned in a quest to reduce the cost of government.

It's been painful watching for two weeks as elected officials in Nassau and in the Town of Huntington - actually, it's been their spokesmen - twisted into pretzels trying to explain how business as usual isn't really business as usual.

The fact is that all four appointments are blatant patronage appointments.

On Foskey, nobody could explain Wednesday why two parks officials were making the same salary. When his appointment was announced, Mangano, in what read like a canned statement, said his goal was to restore county parks to their "former glory."

He also praised Foskey, but didn't address what skills Foskey - or, for that matter, the highly compensated Lopez - had to do the job.

In Huntington, Town Supervisor Frank Petrone's spokesman, A.J. Carter, pointed out the town had filled a number of other necessary jobs despite the freeze, from plumbers to $70,000-a-year supervisory positions.

And he repeated what he had said about the appointment two weeks ago: Besen is qualified, especially since he had the job before being elected to office.

No one expects elected officials to say, hey, this guy scratched my back, so I'm going to scratch his. Or, hey, these guys are good Republicans or Democrats, so we're going to help them out, especially since it's so tough to get a job these days.

That might be a little too honest, since patronage hiring always has been the reward for political work.

Still, trying to pass bears off as butterflies is worse.

So stop it, already.