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Tensions rise between Hempstead’s Santino, Reclaim group


Tensions appear to be rising between Republican Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino and a fiscally conservative good government group associated with a wealthy Long Island family that has contributed millions of dollars to mostly Republican and Conservative candidates.

The Reclaim New York Initiative, the nonprofit lobbying arm of the nonpartisan Reclaim New York, has just sent mailings into two Hempstead Town board members’ districts essentially calling Santino a bully.

The mailings come after Santino, through a spokesman, termed Reclaim New York “an extreme alt-right advocacy group” that was “out of step with mainstream good government groups.”

Rebekah Mercer, daughter of Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, chairs the board of Reclaim New York, which had reviewed a controversial ethics bill proposed by Santino, finding some good things but also pointing out flaws — primarily Santino’s proposed cap on town board members’ outside income.

The mailings went to Hempstead residents represented by Councilman Edward Ambrosino, a Republican who is fighting federal tax evasion charges, and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat who votes with Santino on most issues. It asks residents to call their council members and tell them “don’t get bullied.” The mailing to Ambrosino’s constituents, for example, depicts Santino hovering over Ambrosino’s right shoulder.

Santino’s ethics proposal has sparked unprecedented infighting among town board Republicans, with Santino blocking efforts by Republican council members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman to introduce their own reform measures.

Sweeney, like Reclaim New York, has blasted Santino’s plan to limit council members’ outside income to $125,000 a year, contending the cap is aimed at her and Blakeman, both successful lawyers, and will prevent accomplished professionals from running for office in Hempstead.

Blakeman, on his Facebook page, has already called Santino “a tyrant” who “operates in secret and rules by intimidation and bullying.”

Santino representatives did not return calls for comment about the Reclaim New York Initiative mailing, which calls for residents to be heard at the Sept. 5 town board meeting when Santino’s bill is scheduled to be considered.

“Supervisor Santino’s ethics reform plan is a good start but it isn’t enough,” the mailer states. “It’s time to put politics aside and have an open debate about real ethics reform.”

Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for the initiative, said via email that the mailing “is about the policy and making sure Hempstead residents have the chance to speak up in favor of getting the best ethics reform possible. It’s not political at all; the mailer content is all about urging action on policy.”

He added, “We’re doing it to do our part to bring Hempstead residents the ethics reform they deserve. There’s nothing more to it. We’re here to work with citizens on exactly these kinds of policy issues to make sure they’re no longer ignored. Reclaim New York Initiative has engaged on various issues across the state that relate to transparency and affordability, and there will be plenty more to come.”

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