Squabbling NUMC board falls silent
The board of the Nassau University Medical Center met eight times in 2021, and 12 times in 2020. In 2019 there were nine meetings, and in 2018 there were 10.
But in 2022 the board has met just twice, with the latest quorum formed on April 13, nearly five months ago. No future meetings are currently scheduled.
At the raucous madhouse of that April 13 meeting, an upstart majority of mostly Democrat-appointed board members defied chairman Matthew Bruderman, appointed by Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, and voted to fire NUMC general counsel Meg Ryan. The vote happened via telephone after Bruderman had the Zoom terminated in an attempt to stop the move.
Ryan is still there, as Bruderman and other officials claim the firing was not done properly. But the ability of Bruderman’s opposition to carry a vote may explain why no further meetings have been scheduled.
Right now the Democrats have a one-seat majority, with two seats empty. Insiders say the seat of Edward Farbenblum, the former chairman appointed by former County Executive Laura Curran, could be filled by Blakeman, evening the sides. But the other spot, which must be approved by both Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello, is expected to stay empty because the sides are unlikely to agree on an appointee.
Ryan would not speak on the record and county spokesman Chris Boyle failed to respond Thursday when asked why no meeting had been held for nearly five months, and when one would be scheduled.
Jason Abelove, appointed by Curran on her way out the door and a vocal thorn in Bruderman’s side in the two meetings held since his appointment, told The Point that he worries that the hospital business the board oversees, like approving contracts and making policy decisions, either isn’t being done or is being done improperly, without board approval.
“I’m very disappointed that we haven’t met,” Abelove told The Point. “I am concerned about how the hospital is running its business, and I look forward to seeing a meeting scheduled and held.”
Ann Kayman, another appointee Curran made on the way out the door, and the one whose seat inspired the initial battles when Blakeman claimed the appointment was no good and tried unsuccessfully to oust Kayman in court and give the seat to Bruderman, said she’s disappointed, too.
The only meeting Kayman has been able to attend in her official capacity was the April 13 session Bruderman failed to end by gaveling to a close improperly and cutting off the Zoom.
Meanwhile, the hospital has about $1 billion in liabilities, lost $133 million last year, and is expected to run out of cash sometime in 2023 unless major changes are made.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Zeldin and the photocopied signatures
One of the enduring questions about Lee Zeldin’s failure to get on the Independence Party ballot line has been how, exactly, the joint nominating application for Zeldin and four other statewide GOP candidates got padded with thousands of photocopied signatures.
Many of those photocopied petition signatures do have something in common, though: Close to half of them were from Suffolk County.
That’s according to a new analysis done by state Democrats that counted 44% of the disqualifyingly photocopied signatures as coming from Suffolk: 4,882 out of 11,036.
The analysis also finds 36 of 968 photocopied pages were witnessed by members of the Zeldin campaign team, and another witness on multiple pages was James Robitsek of the Setauket Patriots.
This information sheds a little more light on how the signatures were collected — by a mix that included campaign people and patriot group gatherers, often in Zeldin’s Long Island backyard. Early on, Zeldin’s campaign had attributed the petition problems to mistakes made by “an entirely grass-roots effort.”
Democrats have been eager to criticize the Shirley Republican for the photocopying issue, pointing to his focus on election fraud elsewhere, his voting against certification of Joe Biden as president, and the signature-gathering role played by hard-right groups like Long Island Loud Majority and Robitsek’s Setauket Patriots, which bused people down to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
But there is still a dearth of information on how the real signatures actually got copied, and certainly there were a lot of people who had a role in the petition process. The state GOP has said that signed petitions were dropped off and bound into volumes at party headquarters in Albany.
Robitsek told The Point that he did indeed collect signatures for a few days, including at a Ronkonkoma street fair, but he said he didn’t know what happened to them after he “turned them in.”
And Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz sent an email reiterating the campaign’s earlier point: “As we said immediately upon learning of these allegations, our campaign had no knowledge of any photocopies and didn't make any photocopies.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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Echoes of extremism
President Joe Biden is hardly the only person calling for mainstream or traditional Republicans to reject the extremist wing of their party. Some party members, moderate or otherwise (Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Larry Hogan, etc.), have done largely the same — while drawing heated criticism from those extremists.
A similar drama played out on Long Island six decades ago, centered not on MAGA extremists, as Biden calls them, but on members of the John Birch Society. The group, founded in 1958, presaged today’s MAGA movement with its ultraconservatism, promotion of conspiracy theories, support of states’ rights, and opposition to big government, the UN, the civil rights movement, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Sixty years ago, the Birchers were in the news when Assembly Speaker Joseph F. Carlino, a Nassau County Republican, told the Oyster Bay wing of the GOP that the party “wants nothing to do with the John Birch Society, regards it as a fascist agency, and considers its members to be screwballs — which is putting it mildly,” as Newsday’s editorial board put it in a Sept. 8, 1962, piece called “Some Speak; Some Dodge.”
Carlino had the moderate bona fides to deliver such a message. He had forged a reputation for working well with Albany Democrats and Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller on such projects as improvements to the state university and thruway systems and increased aid to public schools. And Carlino’s advice might have influenced the congressional primaries a week later when JBS member Edward Werner “got what he deserved,” the board wrote, “the old heave-ho by a big majority.”
The board went on to propose that surely the region’s incumbent Nassau Republican members of Congress would follow Carlino’s example.
“Such, however, appears not to be the case,” the board noted archly.
Rep. Steven B. Derounian (R-Roslyn) and Rep. Frank Becker (R-Lynbrook) disavowed JBS founder Robert Welch but not the individual members of the society, an early version perhaps of “very fine people on both sides.”
Derounian did, however, criticize anyone who would claim that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was an agent of communism while Becker professed to “know nothing” about the John Birch Society — perhaps a precursor of feigned Republican ignorance of QAnon.
“Both incumbent congressmen, therefore, have walked delicately around the central issue, which is: Should any ultra-radical organization, either of the left or the right, be allowed to influence the outcome of a free election?” the editorial board asked. “Either Derounian and Becker are afraid of alienating constituents, or in essence they sanction by silence the activities of the ultra-right …”
The echo is heard today in the accusation that by refusing to condemn the Jan. 6 Capitol riot or to state simply that Biden is the duly elected president, modern Republicans are tacitly supporting the MAGA wing. In other words, they are walking delicately around the central issue so as not to hurt their reelection chances.
Then as now, extremism is in the crosshairs. Then as now, avoidance also persists.