From village halls to the White House, political leaders from mayor to president appoint members of their own party to key posts.
It’s expected, and it makes sense. Party-mates generally share the leader’s convictions and are predisposed to pursue their favored policies.
But when Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman hands out at least five plum appointments with hefty salaries and benefits to party operatives — leaders of local Republican political clubs — it sends a clear and all-too-familiar message. For the Nassau County GOP, political and governmental operations are conjoined.
The appointees reported in a Newsday story this week are Deputy County Executive Edward Powers, leader of the Stewart Manor-New Hyde Park club, earning $160,000; Deputy County Executive Joseph Muscarella, leader of the North Massapequa club, earning $160,000; Nassau County Youth Board Executive Director Ladonna Taylor, leader of the Freeport club, earning $110,000; Deputy Commissioner of Human Services Debbie Pugliese, leader of the Baldwin club, earning $102,000; and Deputy Public Works Commissioner Douglas Tuman, leader of the Glen Head club, earning $149,000.
Each has also contributed significant money to local Republican committees or candidates.
Does it matter? Yes.
First off, it violates an executive order from Blakeman’s predecessor, Laura Curran, barring top county officials from holding political posts above committeemen. Blakeman can revoke Curran’s order, but hasn’t. That’s presumably because issuing an executive order to officially reinstate the slippery slope to corruption in a place where Nassau’s last GOP county executive, Edward Mangano, and Mangano’s right-hand man, Rob Walker, were convicted on separate federal corruption charges, would be outrageous even for Blakeman.
Walker headed the Hicksville Republican club.
All Americans have a constitutional right to pursue political activity. What these pols shouldn't have is a right to top government positions that allow them to bestow more patronage through preferential hiring as a reward for party activity. Then there is the troubling nexus of awarding contracts to campaign contributors and expecting county workers to buy tickets to party events or pay back in other ways, all of which has gotten the attention of federal prosecutors in the past.
And one of the biggest reasons to avoid such hires is that it’s a terrible way to choose the best employees to serve the taxpayers.
Pressed on these appointees, a spokesman for Blakeman said, “The county executive will continue to seek out and hire the most qualified individuals to work for the county and serve Nassau residents regardless of political affiliation.”
But he didn’t.
The chances of these five being the best qualified for their plum roles, and also happening to run five local GOP clubs, are slim indeed.
It’s Nassau GOP business as usual, unsurprising and unrelenting.
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.