Nassau’s state ethics appointee posts his apology
On the website of the state Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government these days is posted an unusual statement — the context of which may not be instantly clear to those who run across it.
In the statement, the new panel’s vice-chair, Leonard B. Austin, a retired Appellate Division justice from Nassau County, expresses a public mea culpa he’d already delivered to his colleagues.
Austin states: “I've learned a valuable lesson recently that our obligation is to not only be adherent to the law but also to the spirit of the law. Because the transparency of this Commission is so vitally important, we must do that.”
“ … I did step over the line with regard to honoring the spirit of the law and in attending a fundraiser. Even though I paid no money, it was an error that, I assure you, will never occur again. It was a lesson learned the hard way, which is sometimes the best lesson learned.”
The new commission, which replaces the widely criticized panel established during the Andrew Cuomo administration, reviews cases and complaints involving state legislators, agency personnel, lobbying and campaign conduct.
Austin’s lapse stemmed from the fact that he went with his wife on Oct. 9 to a fundraiser at Garvies Point Brewery and Restaurant in Glen Cove for Assemb. Chuck Lavine, a fellow Nassau Democrat, recently reelected, who chairs the chamber’s judiciary committee. State campaign finance filings checked by The Point show Deborah Austin contributed $250 to Lavine’s campaign that day.
Leonard Austin was selected for the 11-member commission (seven are serving so far) by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in whose majority Lavine is a prominent member.
Under the new system, elected officials’ nominees are reviewed by a separate group of 15 law school deans from around the state, which includes, for one, former 2nd Appellate Division judge Gail Prudenti, now dean at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, where Austin teaches part-time.
While Austin had been cleared for the commission, another Heastie nominee, former state Supreme Court Justice Robert E. Torres, didn’t make the deans’ list of approvals. Neither did Gary Lavine, who played a markedly independent role on the last panel. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, who nominated Gary Lavine (no relation to Chuck), has said he expects a court challenge to that rejection. For reasons publicly unclear, Attorney General Tish James’ nominee Emily Jane Goodman, a well-reputed former judge, also got the deans’ brushoff.
With the new system still taking shape, CELG’s interim chairman, Frederick Davie, posts above Austin’s statement on its website: “I want to assure the public that each Commissioner of the New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government takes very seriously the standards by which we should conduct ourselves.”
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
A little blue in the red of Great Neck
It seems the red wave that swept Long Island earlier this month skipped the Great Neck Library board.
After election inspectors completed the final count Monday, the slate of Liman Mimi Hu, Rory Lancman and Kim Schader emerged victorious over challengers Jessica Hughes, Christina Rusu and Sara Rivka Khodadadian.
Hu, the only incumbent in the mix, won reelection with 1,760, to Hughes’ 1,753 — a difference of just seven votes.
Lancman defeated Rusu by 57 votes, while Schader topped Khodadadian by 21 votes.
The results came nearly a month after the library election was held, after counting was stopped by various objections and a lawsuit that Hughes and Rusu had filed, and later withdrew.
Each slate ran along familiar cultural refrains that seeped into this month’s federal and state elections, too. Hu, Lancman and Schader were backed by those who supported specific diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, along with the availability of LGBTQ+ content and other materials in the library. Supporters of Hughes, Rusu and Khodadadian came from more conservative perspectives, emphasizing parental rights, and the desire to remove books they deemed inappropriate.
While neither slate was endorsed by a political party, similar themes percolated in federal and state elections earlier this month, when Republicans won handily across Long island, including in CD3, where Republican George Santos beat Democrat Robert Zimmerman — a resident of Great Neck.
But even as left-leaning advocates in Great Neck eked out a rare victory of their own this week, they recognized how close they came to joining the losing side.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Cesspool of a community
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Watch Tuesday night
Watch Nelson DeMille talk about his new book, “The Maze,” and why former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke doesn’t like it, in a Newsday Live/Long Island LitFest interview airing Tuesday at 7 p.m. on newsdaylive.com.
DeMille, the bestselling author and Long Islander, talks about his writing process, how he crafts his endings, and some of the Long Island connections to this current book, which follows a stubborn former NYPD officer into a maze of corruption. The current events morphed here into fiction include the Suffolk law enforcement scandals involving Burke and former District Attorney Thomas Spota, as well as the Gilgo Beach murders.
And yes, DeMille says Burke read the book.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano