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Singas, Gonsalves face off over Nassau lawmaker mailings

Madeline Singas, who is seeking the Democratic nomination

Madeline Singas, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Nassau County district attorney, speaks in front of the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola, Friday, May 29, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas faced off Tuesday against Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), presiding officer of the county legislature, over taxpayer-financed Republican mailings that Singas likened to "a political campaign flier."

Singas, who is seeking to run as the Democratic candidate for district attorney this fall, had sent a letter to Nassau lawmakers this week scolding them for failing to act on her call in April to approve rules prohibiting county politicians from using public dollars for political purposes.

Singas cited a postcard sent by Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) that lists on one side "creative initiatives" adopted by the GOP-controlled legislature that the mailing said saved taxpayers thousands of dollars. The other side provides the time and dates of property tax exemption workshops. Six other Republican legislators sent out the same postcard, a Gonsalves spokeswoman said.

"Only a small fraction of the mailing's content serves any legitimate government purpose and the remainder is pure political self-promotion. This is a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars," Singas wrote.

She called on Dunne and "any other public officials who have abused their mailing privileges" to reimburse the county for the costs.

But Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said in a statement, "As the acting district attorney states in her letter, 'elected officials have every right to communicate legitimate governmental messages to their constituents,' and we agree. Our mailings meet this standard."

Gonsalves spokeswoman Cristina Brennan said Gonsalves, who decides what bills will be considered by the legislature, will not calendar Democratic legislation that would restrict governmental mailings.

Brennan did not say why Gonsalves would not consider the Democrats' bill.

In response to Gonsalves, Singas spokesman Shams Tarek said: "That Ms. Gonsalves thinks Nassau County residents want their elected officials spending their hard-earned tax dollars on self-promotional political mail shows that she's woefully out of touch on this issue."

He added, "Acting DA Singas vows to continue her fight to stop this abuse of taxpayer money."

The state constitution bars the use of government resources for political purposes. But Singas, like her predecessor Kathleen Rice, a Democrat elected to Congress last year, said current laws are not strong enough to successfully prosecute politicians who use government mail to send their own campaign messages.

"Using public money to pay for nakedly self-serving mailings should be a crime," Singas wrote.

The legislature this year budgeted for itself $1.1 million for postage and delivery. Brennan said the legislature gets a bulk rate of $0.25 per postcard. Dunne's postcard was mailed to 29,000 households, she said, at a cost of $7,250.

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, the Republican candidate for district attorney, declined to comment.All 19 county legislative seats are up for election in November.

CORRECTION: The figures associated with the cost of bulk mailing for the Nassau County Legislature were incorrect in previous version of this story.

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