Many Nassau Republicans and even some Democrats were surprised to see former Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, who was hired as a $160,000-a year administrative assistant at the Nassau Board of elections after he lost his re-election bid last November, quoted in a Newsday story Wednesday as a spokesman for Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello.
Santino had worked as Mondello’s spokesman for 30 years before he was elected Hempstead supervisor in 2015. Santino went off the party payroll when he took office in January 2016 and Mondello eventually hired Tom Van Riper as a spokesman.
Political insiders immediately questioned the meaning of Santino’s reappearance as a spokesman for Mondello, who has been nominated by President Trump as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago and is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Was Santino back working for the party? What about his elections board job? What happened to Van Riper?
Mondello said Wednesday that there was no hidden meaning. He said Santino was the first person he could reach at 6:30 p.m., after the story about Mondello’s financial disclosures was posted on the web, to explain that Mondello’s reported earnings covered two years, not one.
“I was in a quandary of who to contact,” Mondello said. “I couldn’t find Tom Van Riper. Tony’s been my friend for many many years. I called up Tony. It had nothing to do with paying him. He doesn’t work for the party. It was 6:30 at night and he wasn’t working.”
Santino said in the story that all of Mondello’s earnings covered the past two years.
Mondello said Tuesday and repeated Wednesday that, as part of the confirmation process, he is not permitted to comment on his appointment.
“Tom Van Riper is still my spokesman,” Mondello said. His call to Santino “was a friendship thing.”
Santino has been making moves indicating he may run again for public office, but last month denied he had any plans to do so.