Legislative liaison Greg May stepped into a hornet's nest Monday as he attempted to deflect a Democratic attack on Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s appointment of a new trustee to the Nassau Community College Board.
Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) questioned why Mangano was replacing Richard Gutierrez, a Hispanic trustee whose term had expired, with John DeGrace, former Nassau Republican elections commissioner and Valley Stream GOP executive leader. How many Hispanics are on the college board of trustees? Troiano asked at Monday's meeting of the legislature.
“I don’t care...” May said. Members of the packed crowd gasped and oohed, drowning out the rest of his sentence. Barely audible was May’s response: “I don’t care how many members are Hispanic. It’s not a criteria of this administration....'
Troiano snapped back, “I think that’s part of the problem with this administration. Not only is that not a criteria, it’s not even a consideration.”
Mangano “ought to be mindful there is a large population of Hispanic students that attend Nassau Community College," Troiano added. "The board is responsible for looking out for those students. For you to say he doesn’t care....”
May objected, “Race is not consideration of anything we do here. You’re twisting my words around.”
But the damage was done. Democrats Tuesday morning issued a press release that said the Mangano administration “rejects diversity.” It also posted a shortened video clip of the exchange on YouTube.
May responded by email Tuesday: "The Democrats' efforts to slander my character by taking my words out of context are outright offensive.”
He noted that Mangano appointed a prominent Hispanic, Jorge Gardyn, to serve as vice chairman of the board -- the highest position ever held by a Hispanic-American on the college board.
Two Democrats came to May’s defense.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said, "I feel bad for Greg. He used a poor choice of words at a very volatile meeting. All he meant was we don’t care about a person’s color of their skin or their background. We care about a person's ability to do a job.”
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, “I think it came out the wrong way. I don’t believe that Greg has any sort of racist thoughts. He's worked with all of us and helped all of us in our districts."