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Calls grow for legislative hearing into Nassau police scandal

Members of the Nassau Police Department await their

Members of the Nassau Police Department await their promotions during Nassau County Police Department Promotion and Designation Ceremony at Kellenberg High School in East Meadow. (April 17, 2013) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Calls for the Nassau County Legislature to hold hearings into the scandal that led to the departure of Police Commissioner Thomas Dale grew louder on Thursday, with eight local residents, including a former U.S. prosecutor, telling lawmakers that the issue needs additional investigation.

During the legislature's public comment period,  Jeff Friedman of Rockville Centre, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said "this issue clearly gives rise to administrative review. I hope you take action appropriately."

The scandal began when Randy White, 29, of Roosevelt, was hired to collect signatures for the campaign of former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who was attempting to wage a third-party bid for county executive.

In October, White testified in court that Hardwick illegally paid him for each signature he had collected. The testimony helped scuttle Hardwick's bid to get on the ballot.

Days later, Gary Melius, owner of the Oheka Castle catering hall in Huntington and the sole donor to Hardwick's campaign, called Dale and said the campaign wanted to file a perjury charge against White, according to a report released last week by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

After police failed to find sufficient evidence to file a perjury charge, Dale directed officers to pull White off a county bus and arrest him on an outstanding warrant for not paying a $250 fine from a misdemeanor criminal conviction, the report said.

Rice found that Dale had not commit a crime and that Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano had not been aware of the plan.

Cynthia Kouril, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Southern District, told the legislature that she disagreed with Rice's findings that no crime was committed in the case.

Kouril contends that Dale, who was fired by Mangano last week, could be charged with at least four crimes, including witness tampering, obstruction, conspiracy and election law violations.

"The district attorney's investigation leaves more questions unanswered than answered," she said.

Kouril previously served on the county's Board of Ethics and wanted to run for Nassau DA in 2005. The Democratic Party backed Rice and Kouril did not make it on the ballot.

“A former prosecutor should know how reckless it is to legally assess an ongoing case without access to any of the evidence,” said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the DA's office.

Carmen Pineyro, a Democratic trustee in Freeport, said White's "civil rights were violated and no one is doing anything about it." 

On Thursday, the legislature's Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) declined to address the request for a hearing.

But earlier in the week she said that a hearing was not necessary because Rice's report found "no criminality."

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