After a heated three-hour debate, the Nassau County Legislature voted along party lines Monday to approve the nomination of an upstate lawyer with a six-figure federal tax lien to be the new county attorney.
The 11-member Republican majority gave its support to John Ciampoli of Kinderhook, near Albany, but seven minority Democrats voted against the appointment, with one, Legis. Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin), absent.
Many of the Democrats questioned Ciampoli about a $223,100 federal tax lien from 2002 and another for $118,000 filed by the IRS last year.
Legis. Francis Becker of Lynbrook was the only Republican to address the liens, saying "they do bother me a great deal." But he said he thought Ciampoli showed "no ill intent," and County Executive Edward Mangano was entitled to pick his own county attorney.
Ciampoli, leaning on the podium and often taking a deep breath, said he was ill about the time of the 2002 lien and paid it when it came to his attention. He said he found out about the 2009 lien, filed in February, late last year, and that he is contesting it.
The Republicans asked leading, mostly supportive questions; the Democrats posed skeptical questions ranging across a variety of topics, including Ciampoli's representing Republicans in election matters.
He said he fought hard to disqualify people who should not be allowed to vote because, "every fraudulent vote cancels out your vote . . . it is a disservice to democracy."
He also defended his intention to use more outside lawyers rather than rely on staff attorneys. But the Republican presiding officer, Peter Schmitt of Massapequa, ruled out any questions about the first notable case in which Ciampoli hired an outside lawyer.
In that case, a Brooklyn jury awarded $19.6 million to a man who said he was the victim of excessive force by Nassau police. Just weeks before the start of the trial on Feb. 1, Ciampoli let go the staff attorney handling the case and hired an outside lawyer.
Democrats objected that Ciampoli had commented to Newsday about that case, but that they were barred from questioning him about it.
In other actions, the legislature approved four new members of the Assessment Review Commission, the panel that hears property tax appeals. The new commissioners are Stanley Hirsch, Jack Olchin, Jacki Rogoff and Darlene Harris.
Also approved was a measure allowing Mangano to create a green energy program to provide low-cost loans, probably from state or federal financing, for home and business owners to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings.