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Nassau lawmakers vote to boost oversight of county real estate deals

The Chelsea Mansion in Muttontown is pictured Wednesday,

The Chelsea Mansion in Muttontown is pictured Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Nassau County Legislature voted Monday to require occupants of historic county-owned properties to disclose their political contributions, boosting oversight to county real estate deals.

The 19-0 vote added regulation to the process for awarding what amounts to be a plum perk for those who live or work in secluded, county-owned mansions located largely on Nassau's North Shore.

Majority Republican legislators sought new disclosure laws after examining Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's campaign filings through Jan. 11.

Republican lawmakers said they were upset that Karli Hagedorn, chairwoman of the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, had donated $20,000 to Curran's campaign on Jan. 11.

That was the same day the county legislature approved a special use and occupancy permit for her and her husband, James Hagedorn, for the Mille Fleurs mansion in Sands Point at a rent of $9,000 a month.

County disclosure laws, passed in 2016, require the real estate company that manages Nassau's historic properties — Smith & DeGroat of Mineola — to disclose its campaign donations. But the requirement does not apply to the permit holders themselves.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the bill closes a "loophole" in the disclosure laws.

"The concept still is to make sure that everything the county is doing is completely above board and beyond reproach," Nicolello said.

Mike Fricchione, a spokesman for Curran, said the county executive backed the bill and was "pleased" the legislature included her amendment to exempt veterans and members of the military who live in government-subsidized housing from the campaign reporting requirement.

Republicans held a news conference Monday asking Curran to return the Hagedorn campaign donation.

But in an interview with Newsday Monday, James Hagedorn criticized Republicans for attempting to politicize the issue.

Hagedorn said his wife's donation had nothing to do with the legislative vote, which also took place Jan. 11.

"There is zero relationship between the hearings and any contributions. The contributions are seriously separate," he said.

Hagedorn said the timing of the contribution was coincidental, and that he tends "to give on the last day of the reporting period in general."

The contribution cutoff for the January 2021 periodic filing calendar was Jan. 11, according to the state board of elections.

Fricchione did not respond directly when asked whether Curran would return the $20,000 donation from Karli Hagedorn.

"The county executive does not play any role in selecting permit holders and finds it unfortunate that Republican Legislators are focused on playing politics instead of getting our residents vaccinated and businesses back to normal," Fricchione said.

The Hagedorns have said they have been working to bring Mille Fleurs, once owned by Florence Guggenheim, into the conservancy's portfolio so it could be opened to the public.

"The only reason that Karli and I rented this and spent some money, was to get it off the market," so the conservancy could devise a business plan to open it to the public for events.

The couple, who live in Vermont, do not plan to live at Mille Fleurs, James Hagedorn said.

James Hagedorn is chief executive and president of Scott's-Micracle Gro, the Maysville, Ohio, manufacturer of lawn fertilizer and garden items.

His father, Horace, founded the Miracle-Gro Co. in Port Washington, which merged with Scotts in 1995.

The Hagedorns have contributed a total of $200,000 to Curran's campaign since 2017, according to state campaign finance records examined by Newsday.

They also contributed to former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican.

Hagedorn called himself "a very unapologetic Republican."

He said his wife supported Curran, a Democrat, in 2017, but he backed her GOP opponent, former State Sen. Jack Martins of Old Westbury.

"If somebody would have said disclose your donations, we would have happily done so," Hagedorn said. If Republicans "were so concerned about it, why didn't they just Google it?"

He continued: "We have been generous to both parties ... You never know kind of when it’s going to come in handy."

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