Nassau Democrats stood on the steps of a county office building Thursday to call on the county executive to pay back voters for the $2.2 million cost of Monday's referendum on a new Coliseum.
But then County Executive Edward Mangano's spokesman, Brian Nevin, crashed their news conference in Mineola to accuse the legislature's chief Democrat of missing work "for months."
Democrats started off by calling for Republican Mangano to reimburse the public for the cost of the vote over whether to borrow $400 million for a new arena and minor league ballpark. Democrats said that, to start, Mangano should shift $1 million from the county executive's fund for mailings to constituents.
"He owes the residents of Nassau County their money back," said Legis. Diane Yatauro, standing on the steps of the County Executive/Legislative Building, flanked by posters of dollar bills circling a drain.
No sooner had Yatauro and two other Democratic lawmakers finished than Mangano's spokesman Nevin stepped to the podium. Mangano won't tap the mailing fund because it provides the necessary public service of keeping residents informed, he said -- and Yatauro is the one who owes taxpayers a rebate.
"I suggest that Diane Yatauro return her salary to Nassau taxpayers as she has not shown up for work in months," Nevin said. "In fact, Legislator Yatauro should be investigated by the state inspector general for potentially defrauding the state pension system by claiming she actually works for the people of the county."
Yatauro, who earns a part-time salary of $39,500, plus a $22,000 stipend for her leadership duties, retook the podium and said that she's missed only a handful of workdays this year -- and only because of family illnesses or obligations. She said she rarely missed work until beginning in December, when her father-in-law died.
"After taking care of my family while at the same time serving as a legislator, the county executive insults me by implying that hospital visiting and planning a funeral for loved ones is the same as spending $3 million on wasteful endeavors," Yatauro said later in a statement, referring to spending on the referendum and for other initiatives, including a lawsuit against a state monitoring board that has taken over Nassau's finances.
In an interview, Nevin said Yatauro has missed five days of committee hearings and three full legislative sessions since April. Asked how the five missed committee days -- two of which occurred on the same day as legislative sessions -- jibed with his statement that she hasn't shown up for work in months, Nevin said, "She's very rarely around. She's never in the building."
John Milgrim, spokesman for State Inspector General Ellen Biben, said the office would consider Mangano's request "if and when" he files a complaint.
The dustup came in the wake of voters' rejection of the borrowing Monday. Mangano had proposed the borrowing, saying the project would create jobs and bring needed revenue to the county. Opponents, including county Democratic leaders, warned of property tax increases.