The Nassau County Human Rights Commission, an agency in turmoil for years, has a new executive director, Daniel Russell.

However, aides to County Executive Edward Mangano, and the chairman of the commission, could not explain yesterday how Russell got the job. Russell did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Russell made the announcement Monday night as the commission met for the first time under the administration of the new Republican executive, and tried again to gain some measure of normalcy in its operations.

Russell, a Hempstead resident, told the commissioners that he had been acting executive director since May 2008, shortly after former executive director Renaire Frierson was ousted, and that he has been executive director since the first of the year.

A spokesman for Mangano, Michael Martino, said he could not say how Russell became chairman. "Good question," Martino said.

He added that Mangano was interviewing candidates to become members of the commission and that some or all of the five holdovers might be replaced shortly.

Five of the 11 commission members are holdovers whose terms have expired, and some of the remaining six were reappointed by former County Executive Thomas Suozzi before he left office.

The chairman of the commission, Rodney Brown, was absent Monday night. He said Tuesday that he had forwarded Russell's appointment as executive director to Suozzi late last month, but he was unsure when the commissioners voted on the appointment.

The vice chairwoman of the commission, Phyllis Rice, said Monday night that there were 11 commissioners in various stages of appointments and holdovers and that they would remain on the commission until a replacement was named.

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