The Republican leader of the Nassau legislature, in a widening break with Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, pledged this week to investigate the administration’s handling of public record requests.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) posted on her official Facebook page Wednesday that she was concerned about a Press Club of Long Island report that faulted the Mangano administration for long delays and lack of response to requests for public information.
“Our goal as a government should be to have the utmost integrity, transparency and accessibility,” Gonsalves wrote in a posting confirmed by her spokeswoman Cristina Brennan. “We intend to undertake an immediate investigation of the Mangano administration and each department as to the timely access to public information.”
The statement, which no longer appears on Gonsalves’ Facebook page, follows recent moves by Republican lawmakers to back away from Mangano, who is fighting federal corruption charges.
Three Republican sources said lawmakers were advised by Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello in meetings at GOP headquarters Monday to separate from Mangano while stressing the need for transparency and anti-corruption measures.
Their actions are reminiscent of those of Republican legislators who in 1999 broke publicly with Republican County Executive Thomas Gulotta, who was facing a fiscal crisis and an insurance scandal. Democrats won a record number of county, town and judicial offices that year.
Mangano, whose term is up Dec. 31, is not likely to be renominated by the party this year. Mangano has pleaded not guilty to charges that he traded county work for personal favors from indicted Bethpage restaurateur Harendra Singh.
Brennan said she didn’t know if Gonsalves was responding to Mondello’s advice, but said the presiding officer was not attempting to separate herself from Mangano because of the corruption charges.
Gonsalves was reacting to a local newspaper’s questions about a Press Club report that graded Long Island governments on their responses to Freedom of Information requests, Brennan said. The report gave failing grades to Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat.
But Deputy Nassau County Executive Ed Ward said “it was a flawed report,” and noted that even Gonsalves’ “office received an ‘F’ grade.”
Tanya Lukasik, co-founder of Open Nassau, a countywide group that presses for government transparency, said her group would be happy to work with Gonsalves to ensure better access to public records.
Lukasik said that despite Gonsalves’ professed commitment on Facebook to “a policy of openness and transparency,” county officials have consistently blocked and delayed requests for public information.
“Our government is not open, it is very closed,” Lukasik said.