Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi shakes hands with Edward Mangano,...

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi shakes hands with Edward Mangano, incoming Nassau County executive, on Dec. 2, 2009 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

How things work

In 2009 in Nassau County, a political miracle occurred.

Edward Mangano, a longtime Republican county lawmaker, bested Thomas Suozzi, the incumbent Democratic county executive — who many had assumed was going to win a third term.

Mangano’s election, by 300 votes, along with the party’s continued control of the county legislature — and the election of a GOP comptroller — put Republicans back in power for the first time in eight years.

With the changing of the guard came the changing of the jobs, as Republicans with political connections were hired to replace Democrats, most of whom had gotten their jobs the same way. Although, in fairness, Suozzi in his first term did make a point of hiring from across the political spectrum.

It’s a political rite of passage in Nassau, a process into which restaurateur Harendra Singh — over four days of testimony for prosecutors in the corruption-related trial of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto — is offering a rare glimpse.

According to an email entered into evidence, Mangano wanted to talk to each of his new hires individually.

According to Singh’s testimony, many — “many hundreds of people,” he said — were brought to a basement conference room at Singh’s flagship restaurant, H.R. Singletons, which Mangano began using during his 2009 campaign and continued using for a time after he took office in 2010 for his first term.

In other testimony, Singh said he saw Mangano, his then-Deputy County Executive Rob Walker and Venditto discuss a list of potential county job candidates that Venditto had given to the new administration. That meeting was at Venditto’s storefront campaign headquarters — behind drawn front-window shades — in Massapequa, Singh said.

“John Venditto wanted to know the status of what was going on,” Singh testified. In response, Singh testified, Mangano answered, “I will look at this and get back to you.”

Any new administration potentially has hundreds of appointed jobs to fill, from high-ranking deputy county executives to “assistants” — a catchall category, often in parks or public works, where patronage appointees, no matter the party in charge, tend to be plentiful.

Between 2010 and 2015 — a year into Mangano’s second term — Singh testified that it was common for him to see Mangano and Venditto push each other to hire people in their respective governments. At one point, he testified, Venditto hired Mangano’s younger brother, Rob, in the town’s public safety department.

Singh testified that Venditto told him that Mangano had wanted his brother to be a deputy commissioner and make at least $100,000 a year.

Singh also testified that he acted as a kingmaker, lobbying Mangano to keep two Suozzi appointees — then-acting Sheriff Michael Sposato and then-Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management James “Jim” Callahan III — to keep their posts in the Mangano administration.

“I said he was doing a good job,” Singh said of Sposato.

A few days later, under prosecution questioning, he would testify to using almost the exact same phrase in support of Callahan. Both men kept their jobs, although Mangano later would appoint a successor to Callahan, who died in May 2010.

One former Singh employee, John Cammarata, meanwhile, ended up with a job in the Nassau Housing Authority; a nephew got work as “a budget analyst or something like that;” a friend of a friend went to the highway department; and another distant Singh contact went to social services. “It was natural for me to ask him,” he said of his lobbying efforts with Mangano.

A second Singh employee, former sales manager Raquel Wolf, was appointed as an assistant to the commissioner at the Office of Emergency Management with an annual salary of about $75,000 — without having to first go through an employment interview.

She later, according to exhibits entered into evidence, helped Singh work out details for an emergency, no-bid contract to provide meals to first responders at OEM in the days after superstorm Sandy, according to Singh testimony and exhibits entered at trial.

Down in the basement

Venditto, Singh testified, also used the basement conference room at H.R. Singletons, meeting with a variety of people including other politicians, town contractors, town union representatives, attorneys and town consultants — beginning from “the moment it was built.”

The room was constructed — “sometime in 2006, 007 or 008,” Singh testified — after a potential banquet client, on a tour with a restaurant manager, unexpectedly found Venditto smoking “in the library room.”

“She complained,” Singh testified, “so I decided to build a room so the supervisor and his folks could meet there privately . . . what I was told [was] he liked not sitting in public. . . . It was very convenient for him.”

“I was a town concessionaire,” Singh testified. “They all knew there would be no charge for anything, so that’s another reason.”

Click here to subscribe to The Point, Newsday Editorial Board’s daily opinion newsletter.