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Rice: Nothing criminal in Dems' 2011 redistricting letter

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Credit: Handout

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has found nothing criminal in a letter Democratic lawmakers sent to Republican County Executive Edward Mangano warning that they would not approve borrowing without a fair redistricting process.

County Attorney John Ciampoli, as the county's investigations commissioner, asked Rice in April to look into the December 2011 letter from Nassau's nine Democratic county legislators. Ciampoli contended that the Democrats' letter represented an "illegal quid pro quo," and that the demand constituted third-degree bribery, coercion, official misconduct and obstruction of government operation.

Bernadette Ford, chief of the district attorney's Public Corruption Bureau, said in a letter Tuesday that the office had reviewed the allegations and the law. "We conclude that the legislators' letter did not constitute a crime and the investigation has been closed," she wrote. She added the office had made no findings on alleged violations of the county ethics code because the code was outside the district attorney's criminal scope.

Ford was responding to an inquiry from Steven Leventhal, counsel to the county's ethics commission. Leventhal said the ethics board needed the information from Rice "to be assured that any actions it might take would not interfere with any ongoing investigation. . . Now that we have the response, the Board of Ethics will meet and confer and decide what action, if any, it will take on the matter.."

Since their letter, Democrats have refused to approve any borrowing to pay tax refunds -- which helped create a $43 million hole in the 2011 budget. Also, auditors estimate the backlog of unsettled commercial tax challenges has climbed to more than $300 million. However, Democrats voted with the 10-member Republican legislative majority to borrow to pay for construction projects and employee severance.

Meanwhile, Republicans have refused to negotiate with Democrats on redistricting. A new map that puts four Democratic incumbents into two districts, and two incumbent Republicans into another, is expected to be voted on Monday.

Mangano aide Edward Ward said Ciampoli "did his job and referred a complaint and requested an investigation from the appropriate authority. District Attorney Rice rightfully looked into this matter and rendered her decision."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, "Mangano and the Republicans' baseless charges were a distraction and a complete waste of taxpayer resources. It just goes to prove that this administration will do almost anything to borrow more money and create more debt."

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