The Democrats in Nassau County’s Legislature demanded Sheriff Michael Sposato’s resignation Monday over what they called his “gross mismanagement” of the jail.
They cited what they called a lack of accountability and transparency on issues including security and infrastructure, along with his defense of a jail medical vendor whose tenure has been marked by a series of inmate deaths that have spurred multiple lawsuits.
“He has failed grossly,” minority party leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said at a news conference, citing what he said was an unacceptable track record for Sposato on matters of safety, security and taxpayer protection.
The legislators’ call for the ouster of Sposato, an appointee of County Executive Edward Mangano, follows a finding by the Nassau district attorney’s office that jail officials and Mangano’s staff mishandled an internal investigation involving a jail nurse charged with smuggling drugs and razors to inmates.
“We frankly cannot afford this sheriff anymore, in terms of cost to human life, in terms of costs to the taxpayers,” said Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont).
But Sposato fired back at the Democrats’ assertions in a statement Monday. “Today’s press conference is a cheap political stunt by Democrats to intimidate the Sheriff’s Department into doling out overtime which I cut by tens of millions of dollars,” he said.
Mangano said in a statement Sposato has led the Sheriff’s Department since 2007 “by cutting millions in wasteful overtime and it’s no surprise a proven cost-cutter would be a target of attacks instigated by union bosses.”
Legislators’ concerns about security follow a number of recent inmate slashings. They also echo complaints from the correction officers’ union about contraband smuggling and a lack of facility-wide searches.
Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said the sheriff has been using the same tier to house juvenile inmates with adult offenders in protective custody and accused of sexual crimes.
Bynoe added that Sposato has been saving money on staffing by sometimes locking down the entire facility when it’s not necessary, increasing the chances for violent inmate outbreaks.
The Democrats also referenced Sposato’s defense of facility medical vendor Armor Correctional Health Services despite the state Commission of Correction’s criticisms of the vendor. The commission has found fault with Armor’s care in at least five custody deaths since mid-2011.
The lawmakers also pointed to State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s now-settled 2016 lawsuit against Armor over allegations of negligent health care. They said Armor also didn’t provide required performance statistics.
“For five years, we were paying this company based on performance measures that we weren’t getting,” Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) said.
The legislators Monday also attacked the sheriff’s record on building problems, pointing to recent issues with broken elevators and two jail perimeter alarms in disrepair.
Sposato worked as a jail cook before ascending to a role of acting sheriff in 2007 under Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi, officials said. Sposato on Monday said Democratic legislators unanimously confirmed his appointment as sheriff and also approved Armor’s contract.
He said it is the job of correction officers to prevent the entry of contraband and addressed criticisms about inmate deaths by saying his role was one of “a manager, not doctor.”
Sposato said jail lockdowns were done only for investigations or safety reasons. He said adult and juvenile inmates “are not housed together as special gates separate them.”
The sheriff also attacked the account District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office has given of his office’s role in the jail nurse case. Her office said last week that while missteps weren’t criminal, jail officials and Mangano’s staff didn’t at first properly notify authorities of a potentially criminal investigation.
Those findings emerged after Newsday reported that sources said Sposato’s administration tried to handle the matter in-house at first without the nurse’s arrest. He denied that account and said Monday a prosecutor “asked that an arrest not be made” when first notified about the matter.
Singas’ office stood by prior findings Monday, and added that the prosecutor “was not informed as to length and scope of the investigation” when a jail official contacted her.