Former Nassau Police Chief of Detectives John Capece, shown in...

Former Nassau Police Chief of Detectives John Capece, shown in 2008, was confirmed on Monday Feb. 28, 2022 as Nassau County Consumer Affairs Commissioner. Credit: Newsday/Robert Mecea

John Capece, who was confirmed Monday as Nassau County Consumer Affairs Commissioner, defended his involvement in the arrest of a Roosevelt man in 2013 at a contentious hearing during which the county legislature confirmed top appointees of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

The Legislature voted 13-6 to appoint Capece, a former Nassau Police Chief of Detectives, to the $120,000-a-year job of Consumer Affairs Commissioner. Six Democrats opposed his appointment, while Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence) joined Republicans in approving Capece.

Capece's confirmation came on a day when lawmakers voted unanimously to confirm David Chiang as county Treasurer, former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Adams as Nassau County Attorney and former state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria as county Assessment Review Commission Chairman.

Legislators also confirmed Jill Nevin as Commissioner of the county Department of Human Services. Nevin, who has held various jobs in the department, most recently as a community liaison specialist, is married to Oyster Bay Town spokesman Brian Nevin.

Capece led the effort to apprehend Randy White, then 29, after White testified in court against Andrew Hardwick, a former Mayor of Freeport Village who then was a third-party candidate for Nassau County executive.

White testified he had been paid to collect signatures for Hardwick on a per-signature basis, which is against the law.

White said he was falsely detained and imprisoned and subjected to strip searches.

Nassau Police said they were acting on an outstanding warrant when they pulled White off a public bus and arrested him for not paying fines related to bootleg DVD sales.

Capece retired in December 2013 after then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, threatened to demote him to captain. County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale also resigned at about that time.

White filed a lawsuit against the county in 2014, alleging civil rights violations. White agreed to a $295,000 settlement in 2016.

As he had told Newsday previously, Capece testified Monday he was following Dale's orders in leading the effort to arrest White.

"The Commissioner ordered me to do it. I'm in a paramilitary organization," Capece said.

Capece said he cautioned Dale against the arrest.

"I counseled that it might not be a good idea," Capece said Monday.

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the minority leader, responded: "I'm concerned that even though you're saying that it was under the instruction of Commissioner Dale … we paid out for it, we paid $295,000."

"I did not make that decision," to arrest White, Capece said.

"You didn't make it but you carried it out," Abrahams said.

Capece promised legislators he would "work hard to prove you wrong" about their perceptions of him.

Earlier in February, Democrats raised objections about Blakeman's appointment of Jill Nevin as Human Services Commissioner.

At the time, Democratic spokesman Danny Schrafel called Nevins' appointment "the latest in an unfortunate pattern of questionable picks for crucial roles in the new administration."

"Nassau's most vulnerable residents rely on the Department of Human Services for crucial, life-sustaining resources" Schrafel said. "This position demands an experienced, qualified leader — not a political insider in need of extensive on-the-job training."

Legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) responded that Nevin was "very qualified," and Republicans saw no conflict in her appointment.

"The fact that her husband is a policy director in another municipality is not an issue for us," Nicolello said.

The department contains the Office for the Aging, Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency, and Developmental Disabilities Service, Office for the Physically Challenged, and the Office of Youth Services.

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