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The role that politics played in Nassau probation in ’70s

Richard Hartman in 1976.

Richard Hartman in 1976. Credit: Newsday / Stan Wolfson

In the early 1970s, the Nassau County Probation Department was highly political, in part because there was no Civil Service test for positions, according to former employees. Anyone seeking a job in the department needed a referral from Nassau Republican headquarters.

“It was strictly political,” said Stephen Goldberg, who retired as assistant director in 2015. Candidates would be asked in job interviews, he said, “Who’s your committeemen? Who sent you?”

Michael Vicchiarelli, former president of the probation officers association, said, “If you wanted to be a probation officer in Nassau County prior to the creation of the unified court system, you had to have a referral to Post Avenue,” the location of Nassau Republican headquarters in Westbury. The unified court system is the administrative arm of the courts.

Today, there are Civil Service rules governing jobs in the department.

Louis Milone, who ran the department in the 1970s, was a Republican executive leader for Rockville Centre and the brother-in-law of Ralph Caso, the Nassau County executive from 1970 to 1978. The current Nassau Republican leader, Joseph Mondello, began his career as a Nassau probation officer before he went to law school.

Richard Hartman, a well-connected attorney, was known for his ability to obtain favorable terms for clients trying to avoid jail time for criminal offenses, according to several who worked with him. Hartman, who represented scores of law enforcement unions, later represented probation officers.

“If you wanted to get a good probation deal, you went to Richie,” said Lewis Kasman, a former Hartman intern and Caso aide.

One beneficiary of Hartman’s legal finesse was Walter Cox, a Republican committeeman who, while driving drunk, crashed his car into a supermarket and stole $881. With Hartman representing him, Cox avoided jail time and even had his sentence — 5 years of probation — reduced to 2. He later became Hartman’s investigator on police union cases in New York City, until he was imprisoned after being convicted of impersonating a federal lawman in an effort to derail an extortion case against a congressman and four Oyster Bay officials.

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