Local veterans groups are bristling over the ouster of Nassau Veterans Service Agency chief Ed Aulman, who had served eight years as the country's outreach to the ex-military community.
Newly elected Nassau Executive Edward Mangano canned Aulman even though a collection of 30 veterans groups had urged Mangano to keep the agency's leadership intact.
"He didn't listen," said Tom Riley, a past president of the United Veterans Organization of Nassau County. "It's political. That's the game when a new man comes in."
A Mangano spokesman, Michael Martino, said political patronage did not play a factor in the decision to replace Aulman. He said a replacement would be named imminently.
"It's not politically motivated at all," Martino said. "It's a new administration and a new time."
New administrations routinely replace agency chiefs with hand-picked appointments, said Blair Horner, legislative director of NYPIRG, an Albany good government watchdog group.
"The best-case scenario is an administration that wants its people working from the same page," Horner said. "But it is important for them to lay out the case that the new team is as good as the old team, because that's what taxpayers care about."
Aulman, whose last day was Dec. 31, said he had hoped to stay on. He is one of the 160 workers Mangano recently fired.
He cited his agency's twice-annual service fairs for needy veterans, plus increased staff training and his production of Veterans News, a monthly newsletter with information concerning veterans, as principal achievements during his tenure as director.
The agency has struggled to connect with the tens of thousands of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, who face high rates of joblessness, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and other maladies, but who are often skittish about bureaucratic contact.
James Stasio, president of the Nassau chapter of the 1st Marine Division Association, denounced the firing, saying Aulman had been a galvanizing force for veterans in the country.
"I think it's terrible," Stasio said. "Because he did a great job."