With the indictment of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, there’s a very real prospect that governing in the county and town will tilt toward chaos — at a time when both municipalities require steady leadership.
On Thursday, a defiant Mangano and a subdued Venditto gave zero indication that they would heed calls to step down, just as former state Sen. Dean Skelos insisted that he could continue as majority leader after his indictment on corruption-related charges.
Within days, Skelos stepped down from his leadership post.
And, after he and his son, Adam, were convicted, Skelos was forced to leave office.
But Skelos was a lawmaker, one of many.
Mangano and Venditto are different. They are executives who are supposed to be steering their municipalities by setting policy.
That involves negotiation — which involves trust from the community, businesses, unions, employees and any other institution whose welfare or interests intersect with the municipality’s.
For that reason alone Mangano and Venditto may find their mandate to govern blunted by allegations of corruption, even as prosecutors have yet to make their case in court.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer found himself in a similar position after becoming involved in an attempt to cover up his involvement with a prostitute. At first, Spitzer said he would stay — but within days reversed course and stepped down.
On Long Island, the stakes for Mangano’s and Venditto’s constituents are high.
Oyster Bay is working toward rebuilding its bond rating, which now has junk status.
And that’s on top of rebuilding the trust of residents already reeling from statements by a federal judge who just last month — in upping the sentence of Frederick Ippolito, the town’s former planning commissioner — said point-blank that Oyster Bay officials had ignored corruption in their midst.
Meanwhile, the town is considering the politically sensitive option of breaking the state’s tax cap to bring in much-needed revenue, while at the same time negotiating with unions in attempts to win much-needed savings.
In Nassau, Mangano’s proposal to bring in revenue by significantly hiking fees — along with creating a new $105 fee for traffic-related offenses — already is under fire. And just last week, the control board overseeing county finances ordered Mangano to make cuts or find revenue enough to blunt a multimillion-dollar hole in next year’s proposed budget.
Mangano also is looking for a new vendor to handle medical care at the jail, in the aftermath of the state attorney general and county comptroller slamming his administration for not properly overseeing the contract for the provider.
For decades, as a lawmaker and as county executive, Mangano’s strength has been his personal likability; for Venditto, it’s been his steady stewardship of the town.
That’s frayed, if not gone, in the arena most valued by politicians — the court of public opinion.
That could mean Mangano bidding goodbye to plans to seek a third term next year, and Venditto failing to pull the town he loves back up and onto its feet.
But there’s a new reality for both men.
During arraignment proceedings in a federal courtroom in Central Islip, Mangano’s wife, Linda, who also was charged in the indictment, wiped away tears as her husband’s brother stood before the judge and said he would guarantee the total $1 million in bond for her and her husband. Venditto did not look over when one of his sons stood up to do the same.
Prosecutors said Mangano had turned over a shotgun to authorities, while Venditto had surrendered two licensed weapons. The Manganos surrendered their passports, and Venditto agreed not to apply for one.
How can that get done — and done well — while two executives of two troubled municipalities fight serious allegations that, if proved, could land them in federal prison?
That’s the new reality for Nassau’s county executive, and Oyster Bay’s veteran supervisor.