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OpinionEditorial

Old shadows in Oyster Bay

The percentage-of-salary party contribution practice remains to this

The percentage-of-salary party contribution practice remains to this day. Credit: Getty Images/krisanapong detraphiphat

Every now and then, we are reminded that the old days of party machines are still with us.

The Nassau District Attorney says Oyster Bay Deputy Town Supervisor Gregory Carman Jr. may have violated ethics restrictions by soliciting political donations from town employees but that his actions were not illegal.

Carman leads the Farmingdale Republican Committee.

As Newsday reported last week, the DA informed the town ethics committee that it "confirmed that Mr. Carman did send letters to certain Town employees for political contributions and that those employees' salary information was used in determining the size of the contribution request."

This may sound familiar to longtime Nassau political observers. In 1985, Al D’Amato, then U.S. Senator, testified in a lawsuit over the famous Nassau GOP practice of dunning local-government employees 1% of their salaries under the pretext of "voluntary" contributions. At the time, the former Hempstead Town supervisor said of the 1% contributions that "obviously, it was a factor" in deciding raises and promotions. D'Amato said the 1% "guide" was created to keep the GOP "successful."

Federal prosecutors had already won a conviction of Joe Margiotta, the late Nassau GOP boss who sat at the top of the "1 percent" operation, for finding another way of using government operations to keep the party machinery humming — by having brokerage fees on county insurance contracts kicked back to GOP committeemen. The percentage-of-salary practice became a different discussion, one that remains to this day.

So Carman’s dual roles as deputy to Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, while serving as a party leader, is no isolated throwback. Others on Long Island do the same.

Two years ago, former Nassau County Deputy County Executive Rob Walker pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a scheme that prosecutors said stemmed from his receiving and attempting to cover up a $5,000 payment from a Nassau County contractor. While he was then-County Executive Ed Mangano's top aide in 2012, Walker's Hicksville Republican Committee raised enough to purchase a $240,000 luxury skybox at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Conflicting roles also emerge outside the Nassau GOP.

Ed Walsh served as Suffolk’s Conservative Party chairman while paid by the county sheriff’s office. He eventually pleaded guilty to theft of government service and mail fraud. During county work hours Walsh was, among other things, attending to party business, investigators found.

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer simultaneously serves as Suffolk Democratic chairman. Last October, longtime Schaffer friend Peter Casserly quit both as chairman of Babylon Town’s Democratic committee and as paid consultant to the town after state prosecutors began asking still-undisclosed questions.

After its scandals in the 1980s, New York City enacted a law that keeps policymaking officials from serving in party positions. It's a good government reform that would serve Long Island well.

No wall between party politics and governance is perfect. But when one person in power carries both agendas, it's hard to believe the policies are impartial.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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