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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau hiring maneuver exemplifies self-serving politics

So, you’re a political appointee working for the administration of County Executive Edward Mangano.

And you know it’s likely that Mangano, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption-related charges, is not going to seek a third term — which means that when a new administration comes in with a new set of political appointees, you’re toast.

But thanks to a stunning — and some might say, masterful — maneuver by the Mangano administration, more than 40 politically appointed employees no longer have to worry about finding new jobs come January.

Usually, when a new administration comes to town — especially if it is of a different political party — political employees scatter safely into other jobs.

For Republicans in Nassau, that’s meant moving from the county to Oyster Bay or Hempstead — two towns currently run by Republicans — or (whether Republican or Democrat) to the Board of Elections.

Safe harbor also could be found at Nassau’s Community College — which brought on former Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, after the Republican she lost a bid for district attorney — or to Nassau University Medical Center, where plentiful politically connected workers and former elected officials have secured safe berths.

In anticipation of an administration change, some of the patronage workers even ended up filling vacant union jobs, where — usually — Civil Service tests determine who gets hired, and who does not.

The Mangano administration, however, has taken the patronage non-union-to-union job shift to a stratospheric new level — by moving more than 40 politically appointed employees into competitive union positions.

The move included reclassifying the job titles of entire blocs of political employees, providing them not just with union job protections but — as of July — a Civil Service Employee Association contract-mandated pay increase.

The maneuver boosts union membership, but it also likely boosts the number of county employees beginning in January, when the old jobs of newly minted union employees are filled again with patronage employees.

This is about politics and keeping politically connected workers employed — a job-protection program that, along with benefits and public pension credits, no other employment sector enjoys.

The maneuver also swells the ranks of public employees in Nassau, at a time when the Nassau Interim Finance Authority already is asking county officials to cut costs — or face the prospect of shrinking services.

And Nassau property owners are footing the bill for it all.

This is the kind of self-serving, political massaging of public payrolls that makes people mad.

Last month, one of the allegations levied against current and former Oyster Bay officials in a state indictment had to do with a public employee — whose mother was having a relationship with a former town official — brought on at twice the pay others in the position were making, during a hiring freeze.

There came a point, however, when officials decided to fire the employee. But to avoid suspicion, town officials sandwiched his dismissal in with other employees, who had done nothing to merit losing their jobs.

Public payrolls are funded by taxes. Yet officials tap them as a free-flowing source of favoritism, patronage and nepotism.

This is one reason why Long Island continues to have some of the highest taxes in the nation.

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