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Nassau unions vow to fight furlough bill

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta speaks to the Nassau

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta speaks to the Nassau Legislature before they cast a vote giving the county executive the power to slash $41,000,000 in Mineola. (May 21, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau's public employees unions pledged to fight a bill passed by the legislature Monday that would allow County Executive Edward Mangano to furlough staffers and unilaterally alter sealed labor contracts.

Union leaders argue the measure is "unconstitutional," but administration officials said the law is justified and legal.

Attorneys representing the Civil Service Employees Association and Sheriff Officers Association went to federal court in Central Islip Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the administration from implementing the legislation.

But, the order was not granted as Mangano has yet to sign the bill. Labor leaders, including the county's three law enforcement unions, promised to return to court once the legislation is signed. The bill will automatically become law in 30 days if Mangano does not sign it.

"This law is illegal," said CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta. "No government official should have that kind of unfettered authority."

John Jaronczyk, president of the Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said the bill "tramples on the Constitution" by opening union contracts.

"The bill is perfectly legal," responded County Attorney John Ciampoli. "Each provision is researched, rational and defensible."

Twice before, Mangano has offered bills to change union contracts, but the legislature failed to act on them.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said the county will now "incur legal costs it cannot afford" by fighting for the bill.

The new measure allows Mangano to cut more than $40 million from the budget by modifying contracts, closing departments, furloughing employees one day per week, ending programs and reducing assistance to towns and villages. The bill became necessary, administration officials said, after Democrats refused to authorize $41 million in borrowing for tax refunds.

It's unclear when Mangano will sign the legislation. But, county spokesman Brian Nevin said, "there is still time for the Democrats to support County Executive Mangano's plan to end borrowing and prevent draconian cuts."

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) declined to comment Tuesday. He was harshly criticized by Democrats and unions on Monday after first saying there would be no vote on the bill because of questions about whether it violated any state or federal laws and then scheduling a vote -- with almost no members of the public left in the chamber -- an hour later. Democrats got up and left in protest, and the measure passed 10-0. Democrats on Monday did prevent the GOP majority from attaching an amendment to the bill that would have allowed unions to avoid furloughs and other cuts by providing labor concessions before July 1.

Mangano also has yet to sign a bill that would give Police Commissioner Thomas Dale the authority to fire officers. The Police Benevolent Association plans to fight it in court.

"When a member of the force commits a violation of the rules and regulations we will have an efficient process in place to deal with these issues," Dale said in a statement Tuesday.

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