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Questions swirl around N. Hempstead lawyer and party chief

North Hempstead Democratic Party Chairman Gerard Terry said

North Hempstead Democratic Party Chairman Gerard Terry said Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 he will resign his post, as the Nassau district attorney said she was investigating his public jobs. Credit: Town of North Hempstead

The frustration among members of the electorate is anchored in the view that government doesn’t work for them. It’s manifesting itself in the chaotic 2016 presidential race, but the mood isn’t just a response to super PACs and crony capitalism in Washington. In New York, there’s outrage over the systemic corruption in Albany that felled the top two legislative leaders last year, their trials exposing the leveraging of political clout for personal gain.

And now on Long Island, we have a new chapter in how local operatives enrich themselves through their connections and power, especially in one-party towns where the checks and balances of contested elections would otherwise ferret out the abuses.

Newsday reported this weekend that Gerard Terry, the Democratic leader in North Hempstead, earned $217,931 last year from contracts given by elected officials in town, city and district entities controlled by his party. And how did Terry, known as a skilled strategist who delivers winning candidates, get the lucrative retainers for legal work when he owes almost $1.4 million in taxes to the federal and state governments and at the same time let his registration as an attorney lapse?

This is the first real test for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat who won election on her promise to go after corruption. Late yesterday, a spokesman for her office said an investigation has been opened that will include “an examination of contracts and billing, as well as any financial disclosure statements filed with the Town of North Hempstead Board of Ethics in Terry’s capacity as a party officer.”

Here’s one question to ask: Did an engineering firm that allegedly was scammed by Terry so a then-close friend could get approved for a leased Lexus then wind up with more work from the town after a civil case between Terry and the firm was settled?

Singas, who has demanded that Nassau County implement a more vigorous vetting of contracts, should go even further and review town, village and special district contracts to determine whether there are protections to guard against conflicts of interest.

Late yesterday, North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, who ended Terry’s retainer with the town last week, called for him to step down as party leader. He did so by the end of the night.

But that’s not enough. This stink bomb demands that Bosworth and her predecessor, Democrat Jon Kaiman, as well as town board members, explain how and why all these years they overlooked Terry’s financial problems, which beyond tax liens include his failure to pay private loans.

To restore full confidence, the Roosevelt Library Board, the Freeport Community Development Agency and the Long Beach Housing Authority all have to explain why and how Terry got their legal business. And while the Nassau County Board of Elections is a known patronage pit, employing someone who doesn’t pay his taxes is beyond the pale. Nassau County Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs should fire Terry from his $73,375 post as assistant counsel to the board.

It’s not that difficult to figure out how to make government work again. Expunging operatives like Terry from the system is a good start.

— The editorial board


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