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Nassau: GOP legislative officials defend raise for Mondello kin

After Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello publicly scolded Nassau’s elected officials this month for raising selected appointees’ salaries while county union workers wages stayed frozen, some disgruntled Republicans grumbled that Mondello didn’t object when his son-in-law received a pay increase in late 2012.

A month after Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) died in October 2012, Christopher Ostuni, counsel to the Republican majority and Mondello’s son-in-law, received a $51,000 pay raise, from $125,000 to $176,000, county comptroller records show. His counsel title also changed to include “policy adviser” after Schmitt’s policy point man Ed Ward became County Executive Edward Mangano’s deputy.

Frank Moroney, GOP legislative spokesman, said incoming Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) reorganized staff and combined policy adviser and counsel into one position, which increased Ostuni’s salary. The increase “wouldn’t be covered” by a wage freeze imposed by Nassau’s financial control board in 2011, he said, because “it was a title change, a promotion, part of an overall reorganization that really hasn’t culminated yet because of the elections and the additional new legislators."

Ostuni declined to comment. Mondello spokesman Anthony Santino said, “Chairman Mondello was unaware of the matter and played no role in it.”

Ostuni’s salary increase “would be expressly allowed based upon how the NIFA chairman has interpreted the freeze language,” Moroney said.

After Newsday reported that county elected officials, including Mangano, County Comptroller George Maragos, County Clerk Maureen O'Connell and District Attorney Kathleen Rice, gave pay raises to 32 workers who can be hired and fired at will and title changes with salary increases to another 25 appointees, Nassau Interim Finance Authority chairman Jon Kaiman said the freeze applied to all county employees. It did not, however, cover title changes, he said.

Kaiman added that NIFA may consider instituting a hiring freeze to prevent officials from changing employees' titles as a way to give them backdoor pay increases.
 

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