Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano either delivers a credible 2011 budget this fall or the county risks a takeover by its fiscal control board.

That simple reality provides some context for the despicable attack yesterday by Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) on the chairman of that board, the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority. By any measure, Schmitt's conflict-of-interest charge against Ronald Stack, a municipal finance expert who has volunteered hundreds of hours of his time, is groundless.

Schmitt is also lobbing bombs at Thomas Stokes, a new appointee to the NIFA board, who was budget director in the administration of Democrat Thomas Suozzi. Schmitt claims Stokes, a Republican from Suffolk, is responsible for the "fiscal disaster we're in right now." Well, Schmitt's right about the dire state of the county's finances, but he overlooks this: Republican Mangano thought so much of Stokes that he asked him to stay on to work with his administration, a job Stokes declined.

NIFA was created by Gov. George Pataki to rescue the county from fellow Republican Tom Gulotta, whose refusal to make tough budget decisions led Nassau to the brink of bankruptcy. NIFA's rigorous oversight also caused frequent clashes with Suozzi during his tenure.

Schmitt's only gear is partisan, and his only speed is reckless. The attack on NIFA must mean he has no confidence Mangano can get the job done. So Schmitt decided to shoot the messenger. hN


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