The weekend after former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano was found guilty of numerous crimes on March 8, I failed to write my fortnightly column due to illness.
My plan was to describe the unmaking of Mangano’s career and to rehash the bad soap opera that Nassau’s citizens have had to endure.
I know barrels of ink have been devoted to the verdict. Nevertheless, I ask readers to bear with me as I express some final thoughts on the Mangano saga.
I first met Ed Mangano at a New Hyde Park diner on a Sunday morning in late August 2009.
The individual who put us together hoped I would give the candidate a municipal finance 101 lecture.
When we met at 9 a.m., I had already scanned The New York Times, New York Post, and Newsday. To break the ice, I brought up a couple of news stories only to learn that Mangano never reads the Times or the Post.
I quickly learned that Mangano had not read much of anything. I was appalled that he had not heard of the Manhattan Institute — the region’s leading conservative public policy think tank dedicated to New York fiscal, social and infrastructure issues.
When I agreed to the breakfast, I understood that Mangano accepted the Republican nomination expecting to lose to incumbent Tom Suozzi. As the sacrificial lamb, I was sure Mangano expected to be rewarded by the GOP machine with some other plum post.
Nevertheless, despite his apparent ignorance of municipal finance, I concluded that Mangano was an honest person who would do the right thing if elected.
Shortly before the election, I agreed to serve as co-chair of Conservatives for Mangano and to sign a letter urging party members to vote for Mangano and not the actual nominee, a shill candidate put up by the party’s Nassau chairman who worked in the Suozzi administration.
I was a logical choice to sign the letter having received the Conservative Party’s highest honor, the Charles Edison Memorial Award, and having been the author of “Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the Conservative Party of New York.”
On Election Day, the letter had the intended impact. Thousands of Conservatives went to the Republican line and gave Mangano his slim margin of victory.
Needless to say, I quickly became disenchanted with Mangano, particularly after I was appointed to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority in 2010.
Unable to grasp that budgets aren’t balanced by borrowing money and not paying current bills at the end of a fiscal year, Mangano forced NIFA to impose a control period in January 2011. Even after the takeover, Mangano refused to adhere to the basics of government finance. He permitted the operating deficit to grow and issued bonds to pay tax refunds.
Also, instead of reaching out to a new generation of people who view public service as a privilege, not an entitlement, his government became the full-employment act for Nassau’s Republican party.
Worse yet, as we learned during the Mangano trial, he went rogue days after he took his oath of office on Jan. 1, 2010.
In his first month in office, Mangano whined to Long Island restauranteur Harendra Singh — according to evidence presented by federal corruption prosecutors — that he was looking at a $100,000 pay cut.
To make up for that loss, Mangano requested and received a no-show job for his wife without benefit of resumé or interview and was paid about $450,000 for serving as a food taster.
Mangano also received from Singh a $3,000 massage chair, $7,000 in hardwood flooring in a bedroom, free meals and a $17,000 vacation in the Caribbean.
After Mangano was found guilty, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue rightfully concluded: “Ed Mangano abused his power as a public official by taking bribes and kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for helping him obtain loans worth millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Mangano is not the only guilty one. I’m guilty of misjudging Mangano’s character and for endorsing the incompetent and corrupt dolt in 2009. And for that, I wish to apologize to Nassau’s voters.
Shortly after Ed Mangano was elected in 2009, I gave him this advice:
“To gain the confidence of the taxpayers, display courage; for courage is, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, ‘not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.’ And it will take plenty of courage to say no to Nassau’s entrenched political classes.”
Too bad he didn’t follow my counsel.