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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Brown: A wild week for Nassau Republicans

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks on Monday,

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks on Monday, April 3, 2017, at the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Oh, what a strange, wild week that was.

The Oyster Bay Town Board — in stark contrast to the way things usually work — broadcast its debate and decision on lucrative concession contracts over the internet.

In Hempstead, Supervisor Anthony Santino knocked off one deputy supervisor who was indicted recently on charges of federal income tax evasion, and elevated another.

But the big show was in Nassau County, where Republican lawmakers stomped on County Executive Edward Mangano’s newly renovated Coliseum-opening by demanding that he resign — hours after they’d given him a standing ovation at his State of the County address.

The next day, legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, of East Meadow, demanded that Mangano’s former special counsel, Edward Ambrosino (the Hempstead Town board member replaced by Santino) no longer be allowed to do work for two economic-development-related boards.

She was too late. Directors of the Republican-dominated Nassau Industrial Development Agency and the Local Economic Assistance Corp. in back-to-back meetings voted to end contracts with Ambrosino, who has pleaded not guilty to the allegations against him.

There was nothing subtle about last week’s events. For Nassau Republicans, who usually handle such, ah, complications with finesse, it amounted to a series of bloody cage fights, featuring bout after bout of Republicans beating the heck out of Republicans.

But then there also was this:

In an extraordinary departure from their practice of rubber-stamping contracts, town board members in Oyster Bay actually debated the merits of vendors who had applied for town contracts.

In the past, many of the same members had voted to back agreements with a former concessionaire, Harendra Singh. The contracts ended up as parts of federal corruption-related charges against Mangano and former town Supervisor John Venditto, both of whom have pleaded not guilty.

Was this a transparency? Accountability? Taking the reins of governance? Or, looking to November, when appointed supervisor Joseph Saladino — who replaced Venditto — and the town board are up for election, a Hail Mary pass to convince voters that Republicans should keep running Oyster Bay?

For that matter, is what’s happening in Hempstead and in Nassau — with Republicans calling out Republicans, which again, in Nassau hardly ever happens — some variation of the same play?

In Hempstead, Santino moved quickly to demote Ambrosino from deputy supervisor, and to call for his resignation from the board. But Santino’s choice to replace Ambrosino — who is not resigning from the board — should cause concern too.

The new deputy, Anthony D’Esposito, voted to give his mom a raise; in fact, Santino, in the past, had done what amounts to the same thing, town officials acknowledge — by voting on raises for his sister.

Town ethics code looks to say that’s a no-no. But Michael Deery, town spokesman, defended the votes. Deery said D’Esposito received no direct benefit as a result of his vote for mom, and neither did Santino, in voting for his sister.

But wait, D’Esposito lives with his parents. Couldn’t that raise show up as a direct benefit to him — even if it goes to buy pot roast for the dinner table?

No, Deery said: “The parents owned the home before the raise, and they own the home after,” a defense which, he said, covers the pot roast too.

But Paul Sabatino, a former Suffolk legislative counsel who helped write that county’s ethics code, said, “state law is clear. You’re not supposed to be voting to give a relative a raise.”

Meanwhile, also in Hempstead, Erin King Sweeney, daughter of U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) broke away from the usual Republican lockstep by abstaining from more than a quarter of resolutions during a town board meeting last week.

“I believe it is prudent to take a pause to review the town’s contracting process and confirm there are no conflicts of interest and that all necessary safeguards are in place,” she said at the meeting.


Were last week’s series of extraordinary events — peppered across Nassau, Hempstead and Oyster Bay, all Republican strongholds, coordinated by Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello? Is the party, worried, perhaps that its turf could be in danger?

The chairman knows.

But, alas, as of Friday afternoon, his office said, he was too busy to talk.


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