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Singas, Murray trade barbs over use of staffers in Nassau DA race

Nassau County district attorney candidates Madeline Singas and

Nassau County district attorney candidates Madeline Singas and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray appear at a voters forum hosted by the Garden City Chamber of Commerce at the Garden City Hotel Sept. 30, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Democrat Madeline Singas is accusing Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, her Republican opponent for Nassau district attorney, of using eight Hempstead Town employees during business hours for campaign work.

One of the employees produced records showing he took vacation time for campaign events, and Murray's campaign said the other employees purchased campaign supplies on their own time.

The Murray campaign also launched its own attack, saying that Singas, the acting Nassau district attorney, used employees of her office improperly to drive her to campaign events.

Singas' campaign manager Isaac Goldberg said in a news release this week that Murray used Hempstead Town spokesman Michael Deery to "run" several campaign events during work hours. The campaign pointed to videos and photos posted on social media that show Deery with Murray at three campaign events: on July 30, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7.

Singas' campaign also cited state campaign finance disclosures showing that Deery and seven other town employees have been the only recipients of reimbursements from Murray's campaign fund. The employees were reimbursed a total of $9,611 from July 26 through Sept. 16, according to campaign finance records.

State law bans government employees from engaging in political activities while at work.

Deery, who earns a base salary of $173,881 as town spokesman, said in an interview that he used vacation time to attend the campaign events. Deery provided a copy of his 2015 town attendance record listing him as on vacation on the three days cited by the Singas campaign. "I'm not on work time" when performing campaign duties, Deery said.

Murray campaign spokesman Bill Corbett said the other employees were reimbursed for campaign supplies they had bought "during nonwork hours."

Deery did not respond directly to the question of whether the town could verify that the seven other employees did no campaign work on town time. But he said, "the town does not restrict the personal activities of its employees on their own time including lunch hours."

Goldberg said Singas has five paid campaign staff members, and that none works for the district attorney's office.

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said that on Long Island "it's not uncommon for government workers to basically do the same job in campaigns." "As long as they are really taking personal time on the books there's nothing wrong with it," Levy said.

Blair Horner, director of the Albany-based New York Public Interest Research Group, called the issue of public employees working on campaigns a "typical problem you find throughout the country -- it's certainly not exclusive to New York. The public is the ultimate umpire on whether or not this is appropriate."

In criticizing Singas for using the district attorney's staff for campaign work, the Murray campaign cited an Oct. 5 news conference in Eisenhower Park at which Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) endorsed Singas. Singas was driven to the event in a county sport utility vehicle.

Goldberg said it's appropriate for a district attorney's security officer to drive Singas to campaign events. He said Singas "oversees the prosecution of murderers, rapists, and gang members, and accordingly, DA investigators provide security in public."


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