Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano found himself in the middle of tussles involving not one but two unions last week.
First came assertions by trustees and others that he had inserted himself into negotiations with Nassau Community College's adjunct faculty union -- leaving college administrators on the outside.
Then came a still-ongoing tug-of-war with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state control board, over a proposed contract extension Mangano worked out with the county's largest police union.
In an interview last week, Mangano publicly addressed both issues for the first time.
He said he had no role in negotiating a document that did not survive a vote by deadlocked NCC trustees.
"I did not see it, I did not touch it, I had nothing, zip, nada to do with it," Mangano said Friday.
A local law passed in 1977 under former County Executive Ralph Caso unambiguously leaves negotiations to NCC and its unions.
Mangano said he did not violate that law.
So what happened?
Mangano said his chief deputy, Robert Walker, sat down with Adjunct Faculty Association president Charles Loiacono at the union leader's request.
During that meeting, he said, Loiacono presented an unsigned document that Loiacono said would satisfy the union and avert a strike.
Mangano said he was briefed on that meeting, and later two NCC officials asked to meet with him.
At that meeting, Mangano said, he asked that the college "do the financials" on the unsigned document. "I wanted to avoid a strike, keep the students in classes and get the sides talking," he said.
But some NCC trustees and administrators said they took Mangano's request to analyze the cost of the document to mean it should go to the board for a vote.
If it passed, the unsigned document -- my phrasing, since Mangano and his labor counsel said it was not a memorandum of understanding, agreement, proposed contract or deal -- would have become the adjuncts' new contract.
Mangano said that was in no way his intent. "They could have taken it back, done the financials and decided to call the union to come in for talks," he said. "They had those options."
As it turned out, "no" votes from three NCC trustees -- a veteran board member, a newcomer and a student -- killed the document, which precipitated an illegal strike.
The union, which initially ignored a judge's order to return to work, suspended the strike last week after NCC threatened to hire replacement teachers.
NCC and the union are now slated to talk.
As for the proposed police contract, NIFA late last week still was complaining that it had not received a copy.
County officials said a copy had been mailed to the control board, whose offices are across the street from the county legislative and executive building.
In the interview, Mangano said he had asked NIFA officials early on to join negotiation talks, but that they had refused.
He said he was seeking expedited action on the proposal because Nassau needs to hire police to replace retiring officers.
"I would have preferred to wait until after the election, but I need to hire a class now," said Mangano, who is running for re-election. He said the county would realize significant savings because newly hired officers would receive lower wages.
Mangano acknowledged that he needed NIFA's help with a crucial part of the pact -- settling a federal lawsuit against a NIFA wage freeze that the control board appealed after police unions won a lower-court ruling.
"But I see this as settlement negotiations," he said, "and you always want to continue settlement negotiations even while the matter is in the courts."