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Mangano orders another look at GOP raises

Nassau Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt answers questions about

Nassau Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt answers questions about his proposal to give himself a raise. (Jan. 26, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

As Nassau Legislative Democrats vowed Tuesday to seek a reversal of Republican-approved overall raises of 42 percent for Nassau's top county legislative leaders, County Executive Edward Mangano said he would ask his county attorney to look into the matter.

At a news conference in Mineola, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, a Democrat, said she was "appalled at the shameless grab for money" exhibited by presiding officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who proposed the raises. Yatauro said she asked that Mangano, a Republican, "direct the county attorney to put a stop" to the pay hikes.

>> PHOTOS: Edward Mangano is Nassau's new top pol

Mangano responded in the early afternoon with a news release that he "had referred the question of the legality of the raises to the county attorney's office for review."

On Monday, Republicans, in an 11-8 party-line vote, increased the compensations of Schmitt, from $67,500 to $99,500, a 47 percent hike; Deputy Presiding Officer John Ciotti of North Valley Stream, from $62,500 to $84,500, a 35 percent increase; and Yatauro, from $63,500 to $90,500, or 42 percent more. Other legislators did not get raises.

Yatauro said she would not take the raise; if forced to take it, she would give it to charity.

Democrats contend that the proposal - clocked in at 9:45 a.m. and voted on at 10:20 a.m. - violated the county charter's mandate to notify the public first.

"That's clear," said Yatuaro.

Schmitt fired back in a release, saying Yatauro had been informed on Friday about the raises and that they would be put on Monday's legislative agenda.

"I put it forth in the full light of day . . . and I stand by my decision," Schmitt said, also calling the Democratic minority "ethical hypocrites."

He added, "All I did was what former presiding officer Judy Jacobs tried to do three times. I didn't see the Democratic legislators holding news conferences against her. . . . Nor did I see Democratic indignation when they voted to increase former County Executive [Thomas] Suozzi's salary by 60 percent."

When Democrats controlled the Legislature, they also voted for a large pay increase for county officials. In 2007, they increased then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi's salary by 60 percent to $174,614. Suozzi had gone without a raise for about five years. The comptroller, district attorney, clerk and assessor each received pay raises.

Jacobs denies allegation

But Jacobs later lashed out at Schmitt, saying she never tried to do what he did.

"I never put any raise proposal for legislators to a vote," she said. "And the proposal for Suozzi and others came from a [recommendation by] a bipartisan, blue ribbon panel when the economy was better."

Under Jacobs' leadership as presiding officer from 2000 through 2007, Democrats raised the issue of pay hikes for all legislators three times. But the Republican lawmakers would not support the move because Democrats didn't have all 10 of their lawmakers on board and the measure never came to a vote.

Five other Democratic legislators and a dozen others, including Tea Party members, participated in the news conference. Among the latter were Bob Pendleton of Merrick and Claudia Borecky of North Merrick.

"We helped put the Republicans into office, and we can take them out," said Pendleton.

Borecky said: "People are very smart, and they know when they have been lied to."

Anthony Santino, a spokesman for Joseph Mondello, whose legislative candidates campaigned last year on cutting spending, said the Nassau GOP chairman had no comment on the raises. Nassau's new Republican comptroller, George Maragos, also said he had no comment.

>> PHOTOS: Edward Mangano is Nassau's new top pol

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