Republican leaders of the Nassau Legislature on Monday called for the resignation of GOP County Executive Edward Mangano, the first time they have done so in the nearly six months since Mangano was indicted on federal corruption charges.
At an unusual news conference in front of the county’s legislature and executive building in Mineola, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) stood with eight other majority members and said she had written, “with a great deal of sorrow,” a letter to Mangano asking he step down.
As she spoke, aides to Mangano — who only hours earlier had given his State of the County address from the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum — listened from an open second-story window.
“This is one of the hardest things, I think, any of us have to do,” said Gonsalves, whose seat, like those of all 19 county legislators, is up for election in November.
“There is a cloud over county government and it’s our obligation to try, to the best of our ability, to remove that cloud and do what it is best for the citizens of Nassau County,” she said.
The letter to Mangano, co-signed by the deputy and alternate presiding officers, Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), respectively, stated: “It is not for us to determine your guilt or innocence and I have no intention of doing so,” and credited him with a “positive legacy.
“However, we cannot ignore the perception that the allegations against you have created. Our constituents no longer believe that you are working for their benefit.”
The GOP lawmakers’ split with Mangano — after years of backing nearly all of his measures — comes as Mangano has repeatedly delayed making a decision on whether he will seek a third term.
He was charged in October with receiving bribes and kickbacks from restaurateur Harendra Singh, a longtime friend, in exchange for favors, including a county contract.
Mangano has pleaded not guilty, and rejected all previous calls that he step down. His trial is scheduled to begin in January.
In a statement responding to Gonsalves’ letter, Mangano criticized Gonsalves and the other Republicans who attended the news conference.
“This is election season nonsense and it is offending that an elected official who is charged with upholding the Constitution would trample on another’s Constitutional rights,” Mangano said.
He called out Gonsalves for violations committed by her campaign committee.
In August, a state judge ruled that Friends for Norma Gonsalves broke campaign-finance disclosure laws eight times between 2013 and 2015, and imposed a $14,000 fine on the committee.
“I ask that residents see these shenanigans for what they are — a cheap political stunt orchestrated by a politician who, herself, broke the law,” Mangano said.
A Gonsalves spokesman has noted that the court found against the committee and not against the presiding officer.
The news conference was held about a month before the county Republican committee typically nominates candidates to run in the fall. This year, the county executive, comptroller, clerk and all 19 legislative seats are up for election.
Asked why she only now was asking for Mangano to resign, Gonsalves cited last week’s indictment of Hempstead Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino on charges of income tax evasion and wire fraud. Ambrosino, who has long-standing personal and business ties to Mangano, is accused of failing to pay more than $250,000 in federal taxes on income — most of which came from contracts with county agencies.
“Enough is enough,” Gonsalves said.
Three of the GOP majority’s 12 lawmakers were not present at the news conference: Rose Walker, whose son, Rob, is Mangano’s chief deputy; Laura Schaefer, and Vincent Muscarella. They could not be reached for comment Monday.
Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello also could not be reached for comment Monday, but party sources have said he is likely to back another candidate for county executive.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who has not called for Mangano to resign, said the Republicans’ move was “the height of hypocrisy,” citing their resistance to certain contracting reforms pitched by his caucus.
With Robert Brodsky