Caterer Isaac “Butch” Yamali.

Caterer Isaac “Butch” Yamali. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

GOP caterer seeks another term in Merrick 

School board races are, theoretically, nonpartisan. But that doesn’t mean an elected trustee on the Merrick school board can’t galvanize support from those in the Town of Hempstead’s dominant Republican Party for reelection in the May 21 balloting.

There’s Isaac “Butch” Yamali, for one, a well-known caterer with several local businesses who has had public concession contracts from local governments and handled GOP fundraisers over the years. He’s also served on the Merrick board for many years. He’s surely rooted in the community, citing in one Facebook posting his own granddaughter as a future student.

“I want to make sure she and every child keeps that smile on from the great beginning we must provide for them!! If Re-elected, you can count on me giving 110% and working hard to ensure this happens !,” the avuncular Yamali posted.

On social media, TOH Councilwoman Missy Miller gives friend Yamali a warm endorsement. “Butch is such a great guy,” Miller writes. “He’s a family man and fights for what’s best for his children.”

GOP regulars have volunteered some door-to-door help, insiders told The Point.

The school election happens to land in the middle of preelection season for Congress where Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who clicked a “Like” for Miller’s posting and in 2022 had a big fundraiser at Yamali’s Coral House in Baldwin, is ready to face off once more against Democrat Laura Gillen.

In her former role as TOH supervisor, Gillen challenged Yamali’s entrenched status in concessions. In 2019, she attacked Hempstead’s agreements with Yamali as “sweetheart” contracts. She clashed with Yamali over the role of his operation called the Sands in Lido Beach. These disagreements went on until the GOP recouped the upper hand in the town and county governments.

What seems well into the rearview mirror is that Yamali paid more than $1 million to Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo and Cairo’s son for work at Malibu Beach Park, as Newsday reported in 2019.

Regarding his education platform, Yamali speaks of results. He states how, on the seven-member school board, he worked to launch the pre-K program and shared in the board’s earning a $360,000 grant from the state to expand it. He also boasts an endorsement from the CSEA. For Yamali, it sounds like the right recipe for reelection.

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

The vote that counts

Credit: Weyant

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Reference Point

When Suffolk got the full-time DA it deserved

The Newsday editorial from May 16, 1952.

The Newsday editorial from May 16, 1952.

Put this on the list of historical curiosities: Suffolk County once had a part-time district attorney.

Nowadays, such a concept seems inconceivable but Suffolk was a different place in 1952, when the change took place. The county’s population in the 1950 census was 276,129 — a far cry from the current 1.5 million but nearly 40% higher than the county’s population in 1940. And Suffolk was booming in the 1950s; by 1960, its population would expand by 141.5% to 666,784.

But population growth was not the driver for making Suffolk’s chief law enforcement elected official a full-time position. The motivation was the potential for conflicts of interest, and Newsday’s editorial board was solidly on the side of change.

“Up to now, the Suffolk DA has been allowed to practice law on the side to make his living,” the board wrote in a May 16, 1952 editorial. “Obviously, a DA with a private law practice could, if he felt like it, juggle the scales of justice so that the Blind Goddess might be benign, as far as a Prosecutor’s client is concerned, in criminal matters.”

The decision was made by Suffolk’s Board of Supervisors, the county’s governing body at the time, and neither they nor Newsday’s board cited any examples of DAs who had juggled the scales of justice as feared. Still, Newsday’s board praised the Board of Supervisors, saying their “good, progressive attitude” was a “sign of growing up” and acknowledged that, yes, Suffolk is “a big county now.”

Newsday’s board advocated paying the full-time DA a “respectable wage” — it suggested $15,000 a year, the equivalent of about $173,000 today — in order to “attract higher quality quasi-judicial officers to the Suffolk post. After all, Suffolk must remember that in public office as in the food market you never get better than you pay for.”

It was a good theory, but it didn’t hold up for long. The county’s first full-time district attorney, Harry C. Brenner, elected that November and again in 1955, resigned in March 1956 amid yet another of Suffolk’s many government corruption scandals. Reports filed by the state commissioner of investigation charged illegal practices in county purchasing and a traffic-ticket-fixing racket involving members of Brenner’s staff, including his chief investigator.

Republican Party county leader R. Ford Hughes told The New York Times that Brenner, a fellow Republican, should not be the person to prosecute the case because Brenner “has been friendly with most of the men named in the charges of many years.”

Newsday’s board titled that 1956 editorial “Come of Age.” But some things in Suffolk are ageless.

— Michael Dobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells

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