Spin Cycle

News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.

There’s a gambling-in-Casablanca feeling to the announcement by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice that there might be something seriously wrong with the way people get jobs in the City of Long Beach.


Rice said Wednesday she will open a criminal investigation into the Civil Service in Long Beach following a story in Newsday about a highly critically report from the state Civil Service Commission


Rice, a potential candidate for state attorney general this year was asked: why now?

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“The state commission's recent report is the first report since the current District Attorney took office, and we immediately acted upon it,” Rice replied in a statement from spokeswoman Carol Trottere.


“This was the first official report that was issued containing credible allegations of potential criminality since we took office. As soon as the office became aware of potentially credible, criminal allegations, we launched an investigation,” the statement said.


But as made clear in a lengthy, March 7, 2007 Newsday story — more than a year after Rice took over as DA — Long Beach has had one of the worst Civil Service systems in the entire state — for more than 30 years.


Long Beach had been a Democratic stronghold for decades, but Republican-led coalitions have governed for about five years in the past decade. And a few Republicans cynics point to the statute of limitations, which would put them in the DA’s crosshairs.


While the statute of limitations varies by crime — homicide, for example, has no time limit — many white-collar crimes cannot be prosecuted after three to five years have elapsed.

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Rice would be focusing on recent wrongdoing, and that would cover the way Civil Service has run since January 2008 when Republicans took control of city government for only the second time in its history. The Republicans retained control in last fall’s election. Republicans had also run local government in 2004 and 2005.


That means that most — if not all — of wrongdoing in Long Beach over the decades would have occurred while Rice’s Democratic colleagues were running city government, but the statute of limitations would have expired on many of those crimes.


Any more recent crimes under Republicans, and under Democrats in 2006 and 2007, could be prosecuted.


Since Rice was elected in 2005, why wasn’t she prompted to action by the 2007 Newsday story, which contained similar allegations? “We have no comment on your 2007 Newsday article,” the Rice statement said.


Another question for Rice, this one indirect, originally came from Thomas Sofield, Jr., son of the Long Beach police commissioner. He said during his inaugural on January 1, 2008 as president of the Long Beach City Council that he had been asked:

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“Why do you want to get involved in the cesspool that is Long Beach politics?”