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Judge stymies Mangano tax appeal panel firings

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and District Attorney

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and District Attorney Kathleen Rice attend a news conference at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building in Mineola. (Jan. 26, 2010) Credit: Pablo Corradi

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Friday his attempt to fix the property tax system has been stymied by a court ruling that stops him from firing most members of the county's tax appeal panel.

Mangano also criticized his predecessor, Thomas Suozzi, for making six last-minute appointments to the nine-member commission in his final days in office.

Justice Roy Mahon of State Supreme Court in Mineola extended on Friday a temporary court order that blocked Mangano from firing six of the nine members of the Assessment Review Commission. The other three members did not sue and two of them were let go.

A county lawyer said in the termination notice that Mangano wanted to appoint his own people, who would earn less and share his views as he tried to fix the troubled assessment system, which results in about $100 million in annual refunds because of overcharges.

Attorneys for the commission members facing dismissal said they had been appointed to fixed terms by Suozzi and could not be removed without cause.

"The reasons given were not anything peculiar to those specific commissioners," Kenneth Gartner, representing three commissioners, told the judge. " . . . They can be fired, but the reasons cannot be pretextual."

Mangano said he might appeal, but would not elaborate. "The court's decision highlights the difficulty of implementing real reform and is a cold slap in the face of Nassau's taxpayers," he said.

The ruling "effectively interferes with my ability to reduce the crushing cost of the tax assessment system on the taxpayers - the very mission the citizens elected me to accomplish," he added. "Tom Suozzi added a new dimension to the term 'lame duck' when he made these midnight appointments . . . "

Suozzi, now a consultant to Cablevision, which owns Newsday, did not return a telephone call and e-mail requesting comment.

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