Nassau’s GOP hearing the death rattle – By George J. Marlin
The following appears in the September 4-10, 2015 issue of the Long Island Business News:
After the fall of Napoleon, delegates to the Congress of Vienna restored to the French throne the Bourbon heir, Louis XVIII. The King, an obstinate man who surrounded himself with bitter reactionaries, did not last in power. The wily French diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand quipped, “the Bourbons learnt nothing and forgot nothing.”
Talleyrand meant the King did not learn anything from the beheading of his brother, Louis XVI, and his sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette, in 1793; and during two decades of exile, he did not forget any of his grudges.
It now appears Nassau County’s Republicans, like the Bourbons, have learned nothing from the voter-imposed exile they endured between 2001 and 2009; nor did they forget the fiscal and political antics they employed that brought Nassau to the edge of bankruptcy in the 1990s.
Readers will recall that 30 years of Republican mismanagement, institutional corruption, cronyism and budgetary tricks, caught up in 1999 and the county executive, exposed as the emperor with no clothes, had to go hat in hand to Albany to beg for a bailout.
To help salvage Nassau’s GOP, Gov. George Pataki, in 2000 gave the county government $100 million to help balance their books and created the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), a budgetary oversight board with the power to provide the county with budgetary relief, to transmit state assistance and to issue bonds.
However, the financial lifeline did not save the GOP at the polls in November 2001. Irate voters overwhelmingly booted them out. They lost the county executive and comptroller offices and their majority in the Nassau County Legislature.
Eight years later, thanks to the Tea Party movement, Republicans were given a new lease on life. By a very slim voter majority, they gained back the county’s executive and legislative branches.
Repentant GOP County Executive Edward Mangano promised a new municipal era in which the taxpayers would come first. But it was not to be.
Rather than balancing the budget in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the Mangano Administration reverted to the deceptive financial practices of the 1990s. It also doled out lavish raises to favored employees and gave away the store to government unions and the politically connected.
Now the law is breathing down the neck of Mangano and his GOP confreres. Scores of U.S. Attorney subpoenas have been issued. Mangano, government vendors, the county’s flawed bidding process, and the financial records of Republican clubs are being investigated.
There’s more: a Newsday investigation revealed that a $17 thousand Mangano vacation was arranged and paid for by a Long Island businessman—and the County Executive has thus far refused to deny the allegation.
In late August, it was reported that Mangano approved hundreds of no-bid contracts totaling $10 million that came under the $25,000 threshold for legislative review and approval. Many “personal service” contracts were awarded to political cronies and contributors.
Mangano’s hometown of Oyster Bay is also in the sights of the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) and the U.S. Attorney. The GOP-controlled township may have violated Article 8 of the New York State Constitution which reads in Section I, “No…town…shall give or loan any money or property to or aid any individual or private corporation…or loan its credit to or in aid of any…individual or private corporation….” Not only do records show that the Town of Oyster Bay guaranteed a vendors loan in the case of default, it appears the contingent liability was not disclosed to independent auditors and not revealed in the town’s official statement when issuing bonded debt. Complaints have already been filed with the S.E.C. which takes very seriously breaches of municipal fiduciary obligations.
Nassau’s Republicans learned nothing from the debacle they abetted in the 1990s. But this time instead of being voted out of office, they may be escorted out of office in handcuffs.