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Good Morning

Looking for transparency at Nassau health corporation

The public benefit corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center is in denial if it believes that county residents care not one whit about a two-year contract extension for its president and chief executive officer.

If the Nassau Health Care Corp. — which handles the hospital, a nursing home, community health care clinics and, come September, health care for jail inmates — fails, Nassau is on the hook for more than $242 million in long-term debt.

For years now, even the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state control board overseeing county finances, has had concerns about the facility’s financial health.

Ironically, back in 1999, Nassau shed the hospital and related health care facilities as a way to cut expenses. And two years ago, the county — again to save money — ended its subsidy to the hospital, which over the years had declined to $13 million.

And then there’s the matter of patronage.

For decades — before and after the sale, and during Republican and Democratic administrations — a variety of former elected officials and others with political connections have found safe berth at NHCC, where the majority of the board tends to be controlled by appointees of the party in power.

For now, that party is Republican. And with the contract extension approved by the board during a meeting last week, the tenure of current president and CEO Vincent Politi would go beyond that of County Executive Edward Mangano — who, early in his second term, replaced longtime former NHCC head, Arthur Gianelli, a Democrat, with Politi, a physician who also had served Mangano’s administration as acting police commissioner and public safety director.

Mangano, who is fighting federal corruption-related charges, is not seeking re-election — which, this campaign season, has Republicans vying to maintain control of that office and the county legislature. Republicans also are hoping to maintain control of Oyster Bay, where former longtime Supervisor John Venditto stepped down after pleading not guilty to federal corruption charges.

Meanwhile, in the Republican stronghold of Hempstead (as in Oyster Bay), infighting continues between a faction of board members and the town supervisor.

It seems as if a fractured party is fighting for its political life, which could make securing some safe landing — i.e. jobs for the potentially dispossessed — a priority.

Last week, meanwhile, Nassau’s Civil Service Commission sued NHCC, alleging that since October 2014 it illegally brought on more than three dozen employees — co-employed by the corporation and one of its foundations — outside of Civil Service rules meant to prevent political influence in hiring. In response, NHCC told Newsday that it was not its policy to comment on pending litigation.

To be fair, Politi, I’m told, had a contract that called for an automatic two-year extension should the board NOT act. And beyond that, another automatic single-year extension with the same terms. Should the incoming county executive decide — as Mangano did — to bring in a new president and CEO, there’s a mechanism in place for buying out Politi’s contract.

Still, the board didn’t cover itself with glory during last week’s meeting by declining, after being asked, to release a copy of the contract, its terms or a description of its new deal.

If Nassau’s on the hook should NHCC fail, shouldn’t more transparency be a priority as well?

CORRECTION: A previous version of this column misstated Venditto’s plea to federal corruption charges.