DA reviewing Nassau push for Coliseum

Phones and computer monitors are lined up on Phones and computer monitors are lined up on tables Monday in a unlabeled third-floor room in a partially closed county building at 1 West St. in Mineola. (July 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Nassau district attorney's office said Thursday it is reviewing a call by a Long Island business group for a criminal investigation into whether Nassau illegally used public resources to advocate for $400 million in borrowing for a new Coliseum.

Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, which opposes the borrowing, said he has asked District Attorney Kathleen Rice to look into whether the county violated state law "by allowing public employees to undertake the role of paid advocates" for the Aug. 1 Coliseum bond referendum.

District attorney spokesman John Byrne said, "We're reviewing the allegations."

Katie Grilli-Robles, a spokeswoman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said the "ABLI accusations represent sour grapes and self-interest from a group that tried to hold up the county for developmental rights to the hub property. The bidding will be open to the entire business community and not just those represented by Desmond Ryan. In fact, some of his developers have called to apologize for Desmond's immature actions."

Newsday reported that it had observed phones and computer monitors lined up on tables in an unlabeled room in a partially closed county building on Monday. Posters saying "Vote Yes for a new arena Monday Aug. 1" were on the walls. Some materials urging a yes vote were stacked in boxes. None of the material displayed disclosures of who paid for them.

The state constitution bans the use of public money for political purposes.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin denied the county was doing anything illegal or improper. He said two county employees were supervising a team of unpaid interns to inform residents about the referendum, not to promote a vote either way. He said the Islanders hockey team paid for the promotional materials and gave them to an intern.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He said the only county-printed piece was an "informational" flier with a front page that shows check marks next to boxes that say "Generate $403 million in revenue . . . Create 4,500 new jobs . . . Save the Islanders . . . " followed by "Vote August 1st." Nevin said he told the county team to take down the "Vote Yes" poster and to not distribute the pieces that advised a yes vote.

With Robert Brodsky

You also may be interested in: