Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.
Martin Dekom sees himself as a good conservative Republican, who has organized local GOP clubs since he was in college, and more recently in Manhasset, where he grew up. He even carries a treasured wallet photo taken with former President Ronald Reagan.
Dekom, 43, filed lawsuits in State Supreme Court on the last business day before Christmas taking on the county GOP, chairman Joseph Mondello and county GOP officials. Earlier, he filed suit against North Hempstead GOP leaders as well.
Dekom, who is representing himself, maintains in his lawsuit that the Nassau GOP runs scripted conventions during which the party does not even allow for nominations from the floor. He also alleges that top party officials -- Mondello, spokesman Anthony Santino and treasurer Joseph Ra -- are paid a total of more than $300,000 in salaries that were never properly authorized.
Santino deferred questions on the suit to Ryan but said that Ra receives no salary and that the pay cited for Mondello and himself were "wildly inaccurate and grossly inflated."
Dekom, a reverse mortgage specialist, said, "There's a right to vote and a right to be voted for. The methods of the Nassau Republican Committee are more like those of the old Soviet Union."
Dekom describes himself as a tea party activist and says he has long been involved politically. He started a college Republican club at Emory University in Atlanta and after graduation he stayed put and started a Young Republican Club there.
When he returned to Long Island in 2004, Dekom said he became a GOP committeeman. He married, had children and dropped out of GOP politics for awhile. He resumed interest after County Executive Edward Mangano's election in 2009. But he was shocked when he found out that top party officials were making large salaries.
Dekom has turned rogue, reviving the dormant Manhasset Republican Club despite attacks from North Hempstead GOP leader Frank Moroney, who says Dekom's group was not party-sanctioned. Dekom also has formed the Nassau County Republican Club, describing it as a social organization that needs no imprimatur from the party.
Ryan, Mondello's attorney, said Dekom's lawsuits have no merit and that his case against North Hempstead Republicans was dismissed in state Supreme Court late last week. "He has no case and never had a case," Ryan said. "He's a pro se litigant who lives in own world of the law and the facts. In my humble opinion, his desire is to use this as a vehicle to aggrandize his position."
Ryan maintains that Dekom's legal papers were faulty and that he has no standing to sue since he is not a party committeeman and that he never even attempted to nominate himself at party conventions. He said Dekom has no support within the GOP, and said the lawsuit is so frivolous that he is asking the court to award legal costs to the county party.
Dekom said he never expected to win the North Hempstead case at the local level where the party officials have influence, but vowed to appeal within 30 days.
In his first appearance in the case against the county party last Wednesday, Dekom released his own salvo, calling on Ryan to disqualify himself from the case because he was the parliamentarian at the party convention and may be called as a witness. Ryan is opposing the motion.
"I think they are running scared," Dekom said. "The Nassau Republican committee is a decrepit dinosaur. Give it one shove and it will fall."