Veterans groups attend a session of the Nassau Legislature and...

Veterans groups attend a session of the Nassau Legislature and voiced concern over County Executive Edward Mangano's appointment of a new veterans affairs commissioner. (Feb. 28, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

About 50 military veterans appeared at the Nassau Legislature Monday to charge that Patrick Yngstrom was ousted as head of the county's Veterans Service Agency to make way for a politically connected candidate.

"He helped more veterans than anyone I've even seen. He was a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week guy," veteran Jerome Delaporta of Farmingdale said at the legislative meeting in Mineola.

In a written statement, Dan Brandi, a member of the county executive's advisory committee on veterans affairs, urged members of the Legislature "not to give in to political pressure."

But the Legislature has no formal role in selecting the head of the Veterans Service Agency, and the statements came during the public comment period when speakers can talk about any issue they wish.

Supporters of the new agency director, Michael Kilbride, said he was a hard worker who deserved the appointment by Republican County Executive Edward Mangano.

Among those speaking in favor of Kilbride were Jerry Laricchiuta, head of the union for most county employees; sheriff's union president Michael Adams; Hempstead school board member Betty Cross; and former Hempstead Village Mayor James Garner.

Kilbride's uncle, Charles Kilbride, an ally of county GOP chairman Joseph Mondello, was in the audience, but did not speak. Neither Michael Kilbride nor Yngstrom spoke, and both have declined to comment.

Veterans leaders said Yngstrom ran a competent agency that has aggressively helped veterans identify and apply for unclaimed benefits, and has successfully organized volunteers and solicited donations to help veterans get needed services.

Mangano ousted Yngstrom because he did not consider him a competent manager, Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said.

Nevin said no other member of the agency staff had expressed interest in the $82,000 per year job, and Mangano had not searched outside the agency for a possible replacement because he wanted staff within the seven-member agency to seek promotions. Nevin dismissed assertions that political connections helped win Kilbride the job. "That is a complete fabrication," Nevin said.

With Martin C. Evans

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