County executive candidates pan shift in Nassau jobs

County executive candidates pan shift in Nassau jobs
The Nassau County Legislative and Executive Building is seen in Mineola. (Photo by DanTD via Wikimedia Commons)

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s move to put more than three dozen political appointees in protected union jobs drew criticism this week from candidates to replace him.

Mangano’s administration has reclassified 38 positions as competitive union jobs under the Civil Service Employees Association.

The people in those jobs previously served at Mangano’s pleasure, but are now covered by union contracts and entitled to negotiated annual raises and other benefits.

This is the first instance of a county executive redefining positions often known as patronage jobs as union jobs, according to Newsday, which first reported the shift.

The move came midway through what is likely the Republican county executive’s final year in office — he is not seeking re-election this year on the GOP line following his October indictment on federal corruption charges.

It ensures employees allied with Mangano will have job security under the next county executive.

Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), the Nassau Democratic Committee’s county executive nominee, said the changes are typical of the “backroom deals” that she says have defined Mangano’s tenure.

“This administration is clearly trying to uphold the corrupt patronage system that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the past eight years and it’s not right,” Curran said in a statement on Thursday.

The affected employees include 12 deputy county attorneys who now get assistant county attorney titles within the union and 26 community service representatives, Newsday reported.

Six other non-civil service workers were also shifted into existing union jobs that were vacant, including an assistant to Mangano.

The changes happened before July, allowing the workers to take advantage of a 2-percent union raise that took effect July 1, Newsday reported.

A memorandum of agreement signed by Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker and Jerry Laricchiuta, the Nassau CSEA president, shows the community service positions were reclassified in May.

Walker told Newsday the changes are “not about protecting anyone,” but rather aimed at providing “continuity of government.”

A county spokeswoman declined to comment on the reported staff changes and did not provide information outlining them.

Curran said the changes unfairly give benefits to workers who did not have to take a civil service test or go through a competitive application process. She said she has asked the Nassau Civil Service Commission and the county human resources commissioner to weigh in.

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who is now running against Curran for the Democratic county executive nomination, called the reclassification an “unethical action to change the designation of certain favored political patronage employees to the protected civil service class.”

Former state Sen. Jack Martins, the Republican nominee to replace Mangano, said he has “zero tolerance for such business as usual.”

“The residents of our great county deserve better — all hires, including civil service hires, must be based on merit,” Martins said in a statement. “That is what’s wrong with government today.”

Laricchiuta defended the job changes to Newsday, saying he had been working for months to get more county employees into union jobs.

“If some of these were patronage jobs in the past, they won’t be patronage jobs in the future,”Laricchiuta told Newsday. “That’s the way I look at it.”

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