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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Face-off in Hempstead

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino discusses his ethics

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino discusses his ethics reform plan on Friday, July 21, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Tuesday morning’s scheduled town board meeting in Hempstead could be shaping up to be a hoot, with maybe even some hollering, as a rift between Anthony Santino, the town supervisor, and Erin King Sweeney, a board member, threatens to widen.

How did Nassau’s Republican party land here?

Santino until recently was the right-hand man to Joseph Mondello, the party’s long time chairman. King Sweeney is an aviation attorney who is the daughter of Rep. Peter King (R- Seaford).

All are products of one of the nation’s oldest political machines.

For more than 100 years, the party’s tradition has been to hash things out privately — sometimes nicely, sometimes not so nicely — and then present a united front to the public.

With increasing infighting among Republicans in Hempstead and in Oyster Bay, some county Republicans are wondering privately why no one is enforcing the traditional party discipline.

Last week, Reclaim New York, a nonpartisan nonprofit whose board chairwoman is Rebekah Mercer, daughter of Long Island billionaire and political contributor Robert Mercer, found itself in the middle of a dustup between Santino and King Sweeney over ethics reform and other issues.

Reclaim New York in a video and in a news release praised most of an ethics revamp proposed by Santino. But the group said the plan could use input from the public and from other elected officials — specifically King Sweeney, who has proposed that Hempstead bring on an inspector general to review contracts.

The group also disagreed with a Santino proposal that would limit the outside income of town board members. King Sweeney said the limit was aimed squarely at her to get her off the council.

A spokesman for Santino says it wasn’t. But Reclaim New York, which plans to have a representative at Tuesday’s meeting, says such limits could bar residents from seeking election to the board, which is considered a part-time position.

“We shouldn’t be in the middle of a political fight,” Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for Reclaim New York, said Monday. “Whatever was going on there was going on before.”

That’s true.

The town set off more fireworks when it accused King Sweeney of aligning herself with “an extreme alt-right advocacy group.”

“We took that as being below the belt,” Kellogg said.

Where does Mondello, Nassau’s long time political kingmaker — and presumptive peacemaker — stand on all of this?

A call to his office was returned by a representative, who said:

“He has no comment on this issue.”

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