What took so long, Norma?
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was arrested on Oct. 20 on federal charges that he used his public office for personal gain.
That day, this editorial board called for his immediate resignation. As did Republican candidates running for federal and state offices — running away as fast as they could from the nasty fumes of Nassau corruption.
However, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves and the rest of the legislature’s GOP majority stuck by Mangano. She said at the time, “We are alarmed by the allegations, but must allow the legal process to play out.”
That process hasn’t played out yet. Mangano, who denies wrongdoing, has yet to go to trial and is determined to stay in office until his term ends in December. He hasn’t even ruled out running again.
But Gonsalves on Monday, 166 days after Mangano’s arrest, stood with eight other legislators in front of the county office building, where she pronounced, “Enough is enough.” What changed?
Mangano’s unwillingess to disappear has stymied plans by Nassau Republican Party leader Joseph Mondello to recruit a replacement. Once he does, Gonsalves and the legislators would rubber-stamp his pick as the new county executive and give him or her a leg up in running as an incumbent.
Instead, what is playing out is the story of a Nassau GOP increasingly afraid of losing political control of the county in November and possibly even taking a hit in Hempstead Town, the party’s historic power center.
Republican plans to contain the damage took on more urgency Friday. Edward Ambrosino, a GOP mover and shaker on municipal contracts, was charged with federal income tax evasion after he allegedly failed to pay $250,000 in taxes on fees he earned from consulting work with the county industrial development agency and its economic assistance corporation. The government says the fees should have been reported to Ambrosino’s law firm at the time, which he left after former State Sen. Dean Skelos was convicted on federal corruption charges in late 2015.
Ambrosino, a friend of Mangano, has collected even more money as special counsel to the county executive. And for those who didn’t think Ambrosino had enough juice to deliver what his clients wanted, he is an elected member of the Hempstead Town Board and served as deputy town supervisor until his arrest. That is how Nassau’s web of nepotism, patronage and insider contracts works. It’s a tightly knit system through which the lifeblood of the Nassau GOP has flowed for generations.
So to preserve their way of life, the legislators signed a letter to Mangano calling on him to resign. It read, “Our constituents no longer believe that you are working for their benefit.”
But working for constituents would have meant Gonsalves and the other legislators calling for Ambrosino’s immediate firing by the boards of the two economic development agencies. Working for constituents would have meant standing with a sheaf of good-government bills to ban county contractors from donating to the campaigns of elected officials or candidates. Working for constituents would have meant condemning the web of this spoils system, not just one person who got caught up in it.
And it would have been done at least 166 days ago. — The editorial board