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Melius: 'I cannot excuse' criticism by top Nassau Democrat

Political donor and developer Gary Melius in unhappy

Political donor and developer Gary Melius in unhappy about remarks made by Nassau's top Democrat. Credit: Melius family

Gary Melius said in his first interview since being shot outside Oheka Castle recently that he "cannot excuse" Nassau's top Democrat for the sharp attacks he directed at him and the Independence Party.

Melius was wounded on Feb. 24 by an unknown gunman. Since then, Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs has called the Independence Party a corrupting influence in state politics. Jacobs noted that the Huntington estate, where Melius lives, often hosts Independence Party events, saying "all evil in Nassau County politics goes through Oheka Castle." Melius is an influential Independence member.

"I cannot excuse what he did," Melius said yesterday by telephone.

Jacobs "could have waited" until he'd fully recovered from the gunshot wound to his head before beginning political attacks, Melius said. "I don't know what his urgency was to do this to me."

Melius, 69, who has given more than $700,000 to Long Island politicians of both parties since the late 1990s, has feuded with Jacobs over local Independence Party endorsements and Melius' role last year in a political influence case that led to the ouster of a Nassau police commissioner, Thomas Dale.

Melius said he found it especially "disingenuous" that last week -- as Jacobs named Melius in a letter calling on gubernatorial candidates to reject the Independence Party endorsement -- Jacobs phoned to wish him well.

In a March 12 voice mail, Jacobs told Melius, "I know that we're in a battle and the battle is politics. It's certainly not personal. I've always enjoyed the times we've had together, and I'm glad that you got lucky," in surviving the shooting, according to a transcript of the message provided by Melius.

"How could he say that it's not personal while I'm lying in a sickbed?" Melius said.

Jacobs said Wednesday that he made the call at the recommendation of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican and a close friend of Melius.

Mangano and Jacobs spoke at a recent wake, and when Jacobs said he had no personal animus toward Melius, Mangano told him "it would be nice" if he let Melius know that himself, Jacobs said.

Mangano thought the call was "the right thing to do," his spokesman, Brian Nevin, said.

"I could have made the call earlier," Jacobs said. "What this boils down to is that just because you're in a political fight -- and it can be a fight to the death, the political death -- it doesn't have to mean you can't see each other as human beings. I don't wish anything but good things for Gary, outside of politics, of course."

Frank MacKay, chairman of the state and Suffolk County Independence Party, assailed Jacobs' call to Melius because it came at the same time Jacobs was citing Melius' party connections as a reason that candidates should shun the party.

"It's bizarre and beyond disturbing," MacKay said.

Jacobs spokesman Jeff Guillot said the timing of Jacobs' letter criticizing the Independence Party was based solely on the political calendar.

"Decisions regarding party nominations are going to be made shortly and it's imperative that candidates across the state know the truth about the Independence Party before the nominations process begins in earnest," said Guillot.

Melius, whose only previous comments since the midday shooting were in a news release and a video statement, said Wednesday that he has "no idea" who shot him.

Melius was in his Mercedes-Benz in a back parking lot of Oheka when a masked shooter put a gun to one of the car's windows and fired several times, striking Melius once in the head, according to police.

Suffolk police have made no arrests and have released little information on the attack. Asked whether police have informed him about any investigative leads, Melius said, "they don't tell me anything."

Melius said he's still dealing with health issues -- one reason he has bristled at political attacks.

"I still have very bad eyesight, I have a wound I have to dress every day and I have to go to the doctor's," Melius said. "That's why I take all of this [political fighting] personally."

Melius also disputed news media stories about a court decision in his favor in a legal dispute over an ignition-lock company he recently gained control of.

Newsday reported on March 2 that Justice Thomas F. Whelan backed Melius' efforts to seize control of the private company at the same time Melius sought to name MacKay, Whelan's longtime political benefactor, to the company's board.

Melius said Wednesday that neither he nor MacKay exerted improper influence in the court case. He referred to a March 6 letter, signed by attorneys for both Melius and the business partner he is battling, indicating both sides were made aware of Whelan's connections to Melius, and that both sides rejected Whelan's offer to recuse himself from the case. The letter did not mention MacKay.

"Both sides agreed to use that judge and knew that I knew him," Melius said. "And I know most people."

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