Nearly two months after he lost to a shocking Democratic victory, and just two days shy of the end of his term, former Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino resigned upon his appointment to the Nassau County Board of Elections.
Democrat Robert Troiano, a former senior policy advisor to North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s pick for traffic and parking violations commissioner, was appointed to a position at the board of elections after it was discovered that he had racked up more than $80,000 in federal income tax liens.
Former North Hempstead Democratic Party chairman Gerard Terry, currently serving time for state tax fraud, also had a job at the county agency before stepping down when he faced charges. It was one of six politically appointed, taxpayer-funded jobs Terry once simultaneously held.
Appointing fallen political players to jobs at the Board of Elections isn’t uncommon.
The Board of Elections is the only agency intentionally and legally set up to be a patronage organization – “whether we like it or not,” according to Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
“You know the expression that politics is like sausage making and you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking at what goes on in the kitchen,” Levy said. “This is the ultimate example of sausage making in politics. It’s also one of the legal ones.”
Nearly 80 percent of last year’s Nassau County Board of Elections budget went toward salaries, wages and fees, with the commissioners of both major parties getting paid more than $180,000 in taxpayer funds for the politically appointed job, according to Board of Elections’ records as of July.
Of the $19,254,454 budget, more than $15 million went to salaries, wages and fees.
Santino’s position as an administrative assistant earns him a salary of $160,000.
Troiano is making $140,000 at the Board of Elections as director of special projects.
The Board of Elections employs approximately 154 full-time workers, 24 part-time clerks and 14 seasonal employees, according to records as of July.
In accordance with state election law, Democratic Commissioner David Gugerty and Republican Commissioner Louis Savinetti were appointed by their respective Nassau County party chairmen.
The parties that receive the two highest counts of voters in the last gubernatorial election get to lead the board, Bonnie Garone, counselor to the Democratic commissioner said in an interview.
The rest of the employees at the Board of Elections are split evenly between the parties. It is in the commissioners’ power to appoint and remove the other employees, Garone said.
“Long ago it was determined in this state the best way to make sure things are fair and even-handed is to make sure the two parties with the highest number of members in New York watch each other,” Garone said. “That’s where the oversight comes from.”
Each position has a replica of itself in the other major party, Levy said.
“If you’re the Republican leader and the idea is to put a loyal Republican who is going to look after the parties interests, which is what they’re supposed to do by law, then you’re not going to put in an Independent or good government type,” Levy said.
Both parties are looking for appointees who will best represent the party – “and who is going to better represent the party than a former elected official,” Levy said.
Levy said he was unaware of any Board of Elections employees that are simultaneously serving in elected positions, but said it would surprise him seeing that an employee would be overseeing an election he may be a candidate in.
Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito is doing just that.
D’Esposito was appointed to the board of elections in February.
When D’Esposito’s job at the Board of Elections was announced, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, the Democrat who beat Santino last November, called serving in the two positions “wholly unethical and a clear conflict of interest.”
She said her fellow board member should either refuse the appointment or resign from the Town Board.
“To work simultaneously in both capacities is outrageous and displays nothing but contempt for the taxpayers we swore an oath to serve,” Gillen said in a statement at the time.
As of July, D’Esposito, still sitting on the Town Board, was working as an administrative assistant at the Board of Elections, earning $100,000, according to Board of Elections records.
Efforts to reach D’Esposito were unavailing.
Board of Elections employees are also not immune to the seemingly wide-spread nepotism across the county.
A list of family ties throughout Nassau government compiled by Newsday in October 2017, showed more than 20 Board of Elections employees had connections to politicians of both parties on the town, county and state level.
Among them are Patrick Kiernan, son of former Republican North Hempstead Town Supervisor John Kiernan.
Patrick Kiernan is making $70,000 as a research aide as of July, according to Board of Elections records.
Michelle Imbroto, sister of Republican Oyster Bay Town Councilman Louis Imbroto, is making $48,000 as a registration clerk.
Cynthia Labriola, wife of former Republican state Assemblyman Steve Labriola, is earning $70,000 as an administrative assistant.
Regina Corbin, wife of Democrat Roger Corbin a former Nassau County legislator who Newsday reported is serving time for a bribery conviction, is earning $114,000 as an administrative assistant.
The splitting amongst Democrats and Republicans may also be an outdated policy, Levy said.
While it may have made sense at one point, there are increasing numbers of people unregistered with either major party.
“Now that [independents] have grown exponentially in the days since this system was created, the question should be raised whether the interest of these voters is represented by a system that gives overwhelming influence to the two major parties,” Levy said.
Although Election Day as it is commonly known is a once-a-year occasion, Garone said the Board of Elections’ responsibilities are a “year-round undertaking.”
The board also helps facilitate elections for school districts, special districts and villages throughout the year, totaling “well over 200 elections per year,” Garone said.
The board also processes all voter registration and absentee ballot applications, as well as answer the publics’ questions, Garone said.