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Nassau County executive appoints Kathleen Rice's chief investigator to top post

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has named District Attorney Kathleen Rice's chief investigator -- whom political foes have criticized for his ties to influential developer Gary Melius -- to a top post.

Chuck Ribando will start Friday as Mangano's deputy county executive for public safety. He will earn the same $140,500 annual salary he received this year in the DA's office, where he has worked since 2006.

A 20-year NYPD veteran, Ribando will oversee county departments including police. He succeeds Victor Politi, who departed in January to run NuHealth, which includes the Nassau University Medical Center.

Ribando's hiring was announced by Mangano yesterday along with Eric Naughton's promotion to finance deputy.

"Eric and Chuck have vast experience that will surely benefit our residents," Mangano, a Republican, said in a statement.

Ribando managed 124 employees in Rice's office. With NYPD, he spent time as a detective sergeant and a member of a joint terrorism task force.

But last year, he and the DA's office investigated a political influence case that led to the resignation of police Commissioner Thomas Dale, a Mangano appointee, and faced criticism from top Democrats over its handling.

In October 2013, Dale had officers pull Roosevelt resident Randy White off a county bus on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. According to a report released by Rice's office, the arrest was prompted by Melius, the Oheka Castle owner, calling Dale on behalf of the third-party county executive campaign of former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick.

The campaign wanted White charged with perjury for court testimony in a ballot dispute, but police arrested him on the warrant for failing to pay fees from a prior arrest for selling bootleg DVDs. He was served with a subpoena while in custody.

Rice said she found no criminal wrongdoing by Dale, but Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs called for witness tampering charges. He questioned if Rice was influenced by Ribando's ties to Melius.

Ribando has attended parties at Oheka, as have many other political figures, and his daughter was married at the estate.

"It certainly raises a lot of questions when someone investigates the connection between the administration and what I feel was clearly an act of witness intimidation -- and clears the administration -- and a year later, ends up in a high-profile, important job with the administration," Jacobs said.

Ribando referred a request for comment to Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin, who said "Jay Jacobs' usual offensive and slanderous remarks are not worthy of a response."

Asked if he had any role in Ribando's hiring by Mangano, Melius said yesterday: "I have nothing to do with anything."

Rice, a Democrat elected to Congress, said Ribando "has spent his entire career protecting New Yorkers," adding anyone "would be lucky to have his experience and expertise."

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