Republican Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman drew a line in the sand with Supervisor Anthony Santino, following Tuesday’s divisive town board meeting on ethics reforms.
The long-building Republican infighting reached a breaking point after Santino led a 5-2 vote to defeat a procedural measure by Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and Blakeman for the town to hire an inspector general.
After the meeting, Blakeman said Tuesday night that he was no longer supporting Santino’s agenda on the Republican-controlled board. Blakeman also posted on Facebook that he was “parting ways” with Santino.
“Santino has been nothing short of a tyrant since being elected supervisor,” Blakeman wrote on Facebook. “He operates in secret and rules by intimidation and bullying. This will no doubt fracture the Republican Party, but it was oh so avoidable.”
Blakeman’s incendiary comments could be seen as the first public shot in a leadership fight for the Nassau County Republican Party — one of the nation’s oldest political machines — if current chairman Joseph Mondello, 79, retires or accepts an appointment from the Trump administration.
Blakeman is close to Joseph Cairo, Mondello’s top lieutenant, who has often been touted as Mondello’s likely successor. However, Santino also is a candidate for party chair since he served as Mondello’s right-hand man for decades.
“It speaks for itself,” Blakeman said of his post. “I’m very disappointed in [Santino’s] leadership and it wasn’t written in haste. Its been something that has been percolating for over a year.”
At the meeting, Blakeman and King Sweeney were both shouted down by Santino, who said, “I will run the meeting,” as they tried to introduce an emergency ethics resolution.
Santino and the town attorney said King Sweeney’s motion was filed improperly and the town had to go through procedures to determine if an inspector general position could be created. Santino would not discuss Blakeman’s Facebook comments, as the town board is set to pass Santino’s own ethics package next month.
“It’s childish and doesn’t warrant any further response,” Santino said through a spokesman Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, Mike Deery, Hempstead Town director of communications, said, “Supervisor Santino is pursuing comprehensive reforms that will hold elected officials to the highest ethical standards, including Internet posting of financial disclosure documents as well as public works bids and contracts, strict lobbying reforms, and a $125,000 cap on outside earnings. It’s not surprising that Councilman Blakeman, knowing that these reforms would require him to curtail his significant outside income, would resort to personal attacks on a town supervisor who downsized government and turned a $23 million deficit into a $5 million surplus.”
Later, a town spokesman said, “Santino has no interest in serving as Nassau County Republican chair. His only interest is serving the taxpayers of Hempstead.”
The confrontation is the latest sign of a fractured Hempstead Republican Party, which has long considered Hempstead to be their stronghold as America’s largest town. Santino and five of the six board members are Republicans, with the exception of Democratic Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby.
Blakeman and King Sweeney, who are both attorneys, have said Santino’s ethics package is directly aimed at stopping them from seeking re-election in two years because it carries a $125,000 outside income limit, in addition to their $71,000 town board salaries.
With Celeste Hadrick