Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting’s board approved an agreement Thursday that keeps President Phil Nolan and Vice-President Anthony Pancella III employed through January 2020.
The long-term employment agreement is the first for the organization since it formed in 1975, OTB officials said. It comes as Suffolk OTB emerges from bankruptcy and pushes to open Long Island’s first gambling parlor at a Marriott hotel in Islandia.
“These two guys are the best we ever had,” said Dominick Feeney, chairman of the three-member board.
County lawmakers who appoint the board said they were unaware of the contracts and worried it would curb their oversight of Suffolk OTB.
“This is news to me,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). “It limits the legislature’s ability to weigh in and affect change.”
Brett Houdek, president of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, which has opposed casino efforts, criticized the agreement.
“A 5-year contract is nothing more than the patronage system run amok. We don’t even elect politicians for five years,” he said.
The letter setting the terms through 2020 was originally signed in January 2015. But there’s no record of the board voting on it, which General Counsel James McManmon said he discovered after Newsday sent a freedom of information request for records. He advised the board at its monthly meeting on Thursday to take another vote “to clarify the record.”
The agreement doesn’t address pay or other terms of employment. Nolan made $152,000 in 2014, while Pancella made $142,000, according to the latest payroll information available.
The organization has been controlled by county Democratic and Republican leaders, who divide the patronage jobs. Nolan, a Democrat, is a former Islip supervisor; Pancella is Babylon Republican leader.
Suffolk OTB has sold off all of its buildings, including its headquarters, closed branches, reduced employees and taken out loans from its casino management company, Delaware North. Still, it continues to lose money every year as horse race wagering continues to decline, Nolan said Thursday.
“We’re making as many good decisions as we can and got the video lottery terminals when everyone said it was impossible,” Nolan said.
Pancella said, “Without sounding too much like patting ourselves on the back, we’ve done a masterful job keeping the business afloat.”
Residents near the Islandia site have sued to block the project.