Early on, in Edward Mangano’s first term as Nassau County executive, he was approached with an idea: Why not bring in a county manager, someone with savvy and grit enough to do what was necessary to restore Nassau to firm fiscal footing?
Mangano rejected the idea, back in 2010, because he believed that as the county’s top elected official it was his job to get such policies in place, no matter the political fallout.
Nearly seven years later, variations of the same idea are floating around again. With Mangano under federal indictment for corruption, there is concern in many quarters that he will be unable to both fight the charges and keep things going in one of the largest — and more fiscally stressed — counties in the nation.
In his first extended interview since he, his wife, Linda, and John Venditto, Oyster Bay Town’s supervisor, were indicted on federal charges including conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice, Mangano on Friday rejected the notion that he needs help.
And, he said, the indictment is having little or no impact on his ability to run the county.
“I am not planning on stepping down, no,” he said. “First of all, I wholeheartedly believe that I have conducted myself properly. And that it will be shown that, friend and foe alike, I have conducted myself lawfully and properly in everything I have done in this office.”
As to specifics about allegations raised in the indictment, Mangano said he could not say more.
For now, however, “I am here at work every day and we are working on the important issues . . . in the county that require my attention,” he said.
One matter rising to the top is Nassau’s budget, which was passed by the county legislature last week with a $77 million revenue hole. In response, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority has requested that Mangano draft contingency plans for slashing up to $100 million in expenses.
Mangano said he’s been assured by the Republican majority in the legislature that lawmakers are working on ways to bridge the revenue gap. Meanwhile, he said, the administration is working on contingency plans that would “have a catastrophic impact” on bus, drug and alcohol, senior and other social-related services.
What about Mangano’s ability to govern consistently as the case wends its way through the court — particularly because his chief deputy, Rob Walker, has acknowledged in court that he too is under federal scrutiny?
Mangano replied that he has the time, access to expertise and personnel enough to keep Nassau going.
Mangano said he’s working harder in the office because — while continuing to make appearances at some events — he’s skipping ribbon cuttings and other ceremonial events.
As for advice, “When I feel I need to get another perspective, I have my business advisory board, I have reached out on finances, I have reached out to the Zarbs of the world, to the Catells of the world,” he said, referring to Frank Zarb, NIFA’s first chairman, and Robert Catell, former head of KeySpan.
“I have never been shy and unwelcoming in that type of advice,” he said. “And that will not change.”
As for personnel, Mangano noted that he has deputies other than Walker, including Deputy County Executive Ed Ward, a former Nassau legislator, who could step in should the need arise.
OK. But at some point fighting a federal indictment could become a full-time job in itself.
“I would make the proper decision at that time,” Mangano said. “I would always do the right thing in terms of the county and so right now that is not an issue.”