Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's heavily redacted public calendar shows no local appearances on dates that travel records obtained by Newsday indicate he was scheduled to take vacations arranged and paid for by indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh.
Mangano's public calendar, which was provided to Newsday in response to a Freedom of Information Law request, is redacted on certain days, including portions of July and August 2012 and 2013, when the records show he would be vacationing at Singh's expense. Although the unknown portions could prove that Mangano was actually on Long Island during that time, the only other events listed on the calendar are community and ceremonial events listed as "FYI," which typically indicates that Mangano's attendance was optional.
In addition, Mangano's schedule for the dates in question shows no individual meetings at restaurants or in his office -- scheduled events that populate nearly every other day of his calendar.
Newsday reported in August that records show Singh or his employees arranged and paid for at least two Caribbean trips for Mangano and his family. The records do not indicate whether Mangano reimbursed Singh, whose company received a $238,000 no-bid county contract in 2012 to provide food for officials following superstorm Sandy. State and county laws prohibit public officials from accepting gifts from individuals or entities doing business with their government agencies.
Mangano repeatedly has declined to answer questions about the trips with Singh, who has pleaded not guilty to unrelated federal charges that include bribing a public official in a case concerning loan guarantees with the Town of Oyster Bay.
Mangano has not been accused of wrongdoing and his attorney, Kevin Keating, has said Mangano and Singh are "lifelong friends" and that there is "absolutely no story here."
"Any trip that the Manganos may have taken was done in full and complete compliance with the law," Keating said Monday.
Newsday also reported that, according to several sources, Mangano has said he would refuse to answer questions from federal prosecutors about his relationship with Singh. The refusal, on the advice of his attorney, would make it unlikely that Mangano could be used as a government witness in the upcoming trial of Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin did not respond to questions for this story.
Mangano's redacted calendar often omitted multiple entries a day and, in some instances, an entire day's schedule. In addition, notes that would indicate when an administration official was out of the office appear to have been redacted in nearly every instance.
The county attorney's office said the redaction related to "private matters," which they argued are exempt from disclosure.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said the redaction of notations about Mangano or any other official being out of the office on a particular day or week "would not be consistent with law."
"Certainly, the fact that so-and-so took vacation should be public," Freeman said. "The public has a right to know when or whether a public employee comes to work."
Paul Sabatino, a former Suffolk County legislative counsel and chief deputy county executive, said except in rare instances of sensitive public safety issues, no detail should be omitted from an elected official's public calendar.
"You shouldn't be able to hide anything from the public when you're a public official," said Sabatino, who helped write Suffolk's ethics code. "If it's a calendar being done on a government computer or government property, then nobody should be doing anything private on that calendar. If you're on vacation, put down you're on vacation."
Newsday plans to file an appeal over the county's decision to redact portions of Mangano's calendar.
Annual summer trips
Because the records obtained by Newsday indicated that Mangano vacationed with Singh during the summer, the newspaper requested Mangano's public calendar for each July and August of 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In July 2012, records show Singh's employees arranged with a travel agent for Mangano and his family to take a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Monday, July 9, the first full day Mangano was scheduled to be in the Virgin Islands, at least two items have been redacted from his calendar, and what remains include three "FYI" events and a routine notation of the county legislature's meeting. On that same day, there is a notation saying that the county executive said "he cannot make it."
The following day was completely redacted. For July 11 and July 12, the last days of the scheduled vacation, the events on his calendar are only FYIs. One of them was for a retirement party and includes a notation that upon Mangano's return, his office requested that Mangano call the honoree because "you missed" the event.
In July 2013, records show Singh arranged for the Mangano family to travel to Turks and Caicos at a total cost of $17,498. During the days of that scheduled trip, Mangano's official calendar again shows no meetings with specific individuals.
On Monday, July 22, the first full day of the planned Turks and Caicos trip, Mangano's calendar has only two FYI events and a note advising of the bill filing deadline for the next legislative meeting. The next three days list only all-day event advisories and FYIs, including a rabbi's birthday party, a museum summer workshop and a free concert at a county park.
On July 26, the day that travel records indicate Mangano was to return from Turks and Caicos, a single evening event is listed: an Islamic community function coordinated by Zahid Syed. It's noted that Rob Walker, the chief deputy county executive, will stand in for Mangano "until he arrives."
The travel records obtained by Newsday also included airline tickets for a July 2014 trip to Jacksonville, Florida, for Mangano, Singh and their families. Unlike the trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos, there were no other records indicating that Singh had paid for or arranged the Jacksonville trip, and Newsday has not published information about that flight until now.
The airline tickets to Jacksonville were for Friday, July 25, with a return date of Aug. 2. On that Friday, Mangano's only event that was not redacted was a phone call to the county comptroller. The next day is completely blank, and that entire next week contains only FYI events and an all-week notation about an Italian festival in Glen Cove. On July 30, in a spot that is redacted in many other areas of the calendar, a note says "Ed out."
Ties to Singh, Mehta
The travel records further illustrate the close link between Mangano and Singh, who employed Mangano's wife in a part-time marketing job with a six-figure salary.
Newsday previously reported that Singh often boasted to his restaurant employees about his influence with Mangano and for years instructed them to give Mangano and his family, as well as other public officials, free meals and drinks. County officials have said Mangano always paid for his own meals.
Mangano's public calendar also showed he often held meetings at Singh's restaurants.
In July and August of 2012, for example, Mangano's calendar lists four meetings in a two-week period scheduled for either Singh's H.R. Singletons in Bethpage or The Woodlands in Woodbury. Singh operates the catering hall at the The Woodlands for the Town of Oyster Bay.
At Singletons, Mangano was scheduled to meet once that July with Edward Ambrosino, a Town of Hempstead councilman who has received contracts to perform legal work for Nassau. On another occasion that August, he was to meet at Singleton's with Thomas Krumpter, who is now Nassau's acting police commissioner. For another scheduled August meeting at Singletons, the subject is listed only as "Badar TV."
For a planned July meeting at the Woodlands, the calendar simply reads "IDA," an apparent reference to the county's Industrial Development Agency.
An Aug. 11, 2012, note concerning the India Day Parade -- scheduled for that day in Hicksville -- points to Mangano's influence in Nassau's Indian-American community as a result of his friendship with Singh and one of Singh's close associates, Kamlesh Mehta. After noting that Mangano was to be grand marshal of the parade, the calendar reads: "Event almost got canceled but the CE [county executive] helped with the permit process. Kamlesh is the contact."
Mehta served as Mangano's director of economic and business development until he resigned Oct. 1, after Newsday made requests for information about his work product, his role in presenting honorary proclamations and his time sheets.
Newsday has reported that Mehta secured the position, which paid $79,000 a year, despite a checkered financial past that includes a home foreclosure, two bankruptcy filings, a tax lien and lawsuits against him by creditors who allege that he owes thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
Mehta declined to be interviewed by Newsday, but he published a response on Oct. 24 in The South Asian Times, which he owns, saying that he resigned from his county position because of pressing demands and a need for more time for family enterprises and prior social commitments.
With Ted Phillips