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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau, Hempstead Republicans scramble to shelter in place

Republicans are working to protect faithful employees before Democrats take power in January.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino delivers his

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino delivers his state of the town address on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in Hempstead. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republicans are scrambling, big time, to shelter in place as Democrats prepare to take office in Nassau County and Hempstead Town.

On Tuesday, outgoing Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino and the Republican-controlled town board are slated to help almost 200 employees move to safe jobs or get raises.

In addition, Santino and the board are primed to approve a memorandum of agreement that would, through 2021, bar town union employees for being fired for anything other than misconduct or incompetence.

The change amounts to a no-layoff clause, which would specifically ban Hempstead’s elected officials from terminating union employees “ ... for reasons due to budgetary, economy, consolidation, abolition of functions, abolition of position or curtailment of activities.”

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said he’s never seen such a clause added to an existing union contract.

“It is an incredibly dangerous thing, because it ties a municipality’s hands by taking away a threat of layoffs as a negotiating tactic,” said Levy, a Republican.”

In Nassau, the move to protect employees began earlier, in July, when the administration of County Executive Edward Mangano moved more than 40 politically appointed employees into competitive union positions. That protected them from firing when County Executive-elect Laura Curran takes office in January.

The maneuver by Mangano, a Republican who is fighting federal corruption charges, marks the first time an administration has reclassified job titles for a large blocs of political appointees to prevent them from easily being replaced.

Last week, Democrat Curran asked Mangano to reverse the action.

There’s been no response from Mangano.

On Monday, Democratic Hempstead Supervisor-Elect Laura Gillen, citing the proposed job changes, raises and change to the union contract, called on Santino, a Republican, to resign.

Santino, however, is neither expected to resign, nor pull back the proposals from Tuesday’s town board meeting.

George Maragos, the county’s outgoing comptroller, meanwhile, is trying to protect his longtime personal assistant by seeking permission to move her from a politically appointed post to a protected union title. It was the sort of move Maragos criticized in July when Mangano did the same thing for the 40 appointees.

At that time, Maragos, a Republican turned Democrat, was running a primary campaign Curran. He lost — and by November was looking to do what Mangano had done, saying, “I am obligated to look out for my people.”

Nassau’s Office of Human Resources is delaying action on the aide’s job reclassification until County Comptroller-elect Jack Schnirman, a Democrat, takes office in January.

The Republican effort to protect and preserve so many jobs, and in so many ways, is unprecedented.

Then again, so was the GOP’s losing the county executive post and — for the first time in more than a 100 years — the top spot in Hempstead on a single night.

“That amounts to so many people out of work and no place to put them,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Suffolk political consultant who works mostly with Republican candidates.

None of this is illegal. “This is done in Washington, in Albany and, yes, in Mineola,” Dawidziak said. “It may make things tough for those coming in, but things don’t change on election night and those in office have the power of that office until Dec 31.”

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