No charges in voter contact on Coliseum

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and Nassau New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano after bill to allow residents to vote on the future of the Nassau Coliseum area was approved. (May 31, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Friday she had found "no evidence" to support criminal charges in County Executive Edward Mangano's "voter-contact program" about an Aug. 1 referendum to borrow up to $400 million for rebuilding the Nassau Coliseum.

Although the state constitution and other state laws prohibit the use of government resources for political purposes, Rice said the bans carry no criminal penalties.

"The remedy for such a violation is exclusively civil and any determination regarding the propriety of the materials relevant to this case is outside the jurisdiction of my office," Rice wrote to two people who filed complaints about Mangano's campaign.

In response to a July 14 Newsday article, Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, and Legis. Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), minority leader of the Nassau Legislature, separately asked Rice to investigate whether Mangano had used government resources to promote a "yes" vote. A Newsday reporter observed computer monitors and telephones on tables in a county office with posters on the walls reading, "Vote yes for a new arena Monday Aug. 1." Other promotional materials were stacked in boxes in the room.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin had said two county employees were supervising a team of unpaid interns to inform residents about the referendum, not to promote a vote. He said the Islanders hockey team had paid for the promotional materials.

Nevin said Friday: "ABLI's false accusations and negative campaign efforts to slander the County were wrong, misleading and unfair. The ABLI and its members owe the people of Nassau County an apology."

Ryan, whose group opposes the Coliseum borrowing plan, declined to comment.

Yatauro said she was still "concerned about the apparent abuse," adding, "I find it amazing that once the DA got wind of what they were doing, the posters [in the office] disappeared."

Although Rice contended she did not have jurisdiction, the late Suffolk District Attorney James M. Catterson Jr. successfully prosecuted several public employees in the 1990s and early 2001 for working on political campaigns while on the job. They were charged with misusing their offices for political purposes and theft of services.

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