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Christopher Troisi decries 'witch hunt' by Nassau lawmakers

Nassau Democrats oppose the re-appointment of a Sewer

Nassau Democrats oppose the re-appointment of a Sewer and Storm Water Finance Authority Board member Christopher Troisi because he's become an official of the county's Independence Party. (Jan. 27, 2014) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau Sewer & Storm Water Finance Authority member accused some county legislators of conducting a "witch hunt" against him, after they raised his ties to the Independence Party at his reappointment hearing Monday.

Christopher Troisi, a North Merrick electrician, came before the legislature for approval to continue on the seven-member authority, which issues and refinances debt for sewer and stormwater projects. While reappointments tend to be routine, lawmakers in the Democratic minority latched onto a detail from Troisi's resume: Almost immediately after his May 2012 appointment to the authority, he was named a committeeman for the state Independence Party, and vice chairman of the county party.

The chairman of Nassau's Independence Party, Rick Bellando, is a longtime friend and employee of Gary Melius, owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington and an influential figure in Long Island politics.

Nassau Democrats have been critical of the Independence Party for its members' roles in a controversy in December that led to the resignation of Police Commissioner Thomas Dale.

An investigation by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice found that Dale personally directed officers to arrest a witness in a politically charged election-year case.

Melius had called Dale, saying the county executive campaign of former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick wanted to file a perjury charge against a witness who testified that Hardwick paid him $1.25 for each signature he collected on nominating petitions. Petitioners legally can be paid per hour, but not per signature. Melius was the sole donor to Hardwick's campaign.

Democrats said the Hardwick candidacy was meant to siphon votes from their county executive candidate, Thomas Suozzi, and help the campaign of incumbent Republican Edward Mangano.

Melius said neither he nor Dale did anything inappropriate, and Rice said no criminal laws were broken.

"There are investigations going on, and I don't want to appoint anyone involved in an investigation," said Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), alluding to a continuing probe by Rice of aspects of the case. Troisi has not been connected to the case.

Troisi, who stood and watched as Republican lawmakers attacked Democrats for raising the Independence Party issue, was ultimately reappointed to the unpaid authority post in an 11-7 party-line vote.

"I feel this is almost like a witch hunt that I'm being brought into for no apparent reason," he testified.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) called Democrats' questioning "out of order," while Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) complained about "guilt by association."

Democratic lawmakers also focused on Melius' plans to connect a pending condominium project on Oheka's property to Nassau's sewer system. Troisi said repeatedly the sewer and stormwater authority would have no say in such an application.

"Those contracts don't come to us," said Troisi, who described the mission of the authority as "strictly finance."

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