The recent shift of nearly 40 Nassau County jobs into the county’s major civil service union will ultimately reduce political patronage and increase accountability, the union’s president said Tuesday.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 830, said he wants the jobs of 26 community service representatives and 12 assistant county attorneys who recently joined the union to eventually become competitive, meaning anyone who holds them in the future will have to apply and take a civil service test.
That means county executives will have fewer slots to fill with political appointees, Laricchiuta said. He called on Nassau County executive candidates to push for that to happen if elected.
“My goal is to make it so that they just can’t be handed jobs,” Laricchiuta said in an interview.
County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration moved the 38 positions into the union in May. Employees in those jobs could previously be hired and fired at will, but are now covered by union contracts and entitled to negotiated benefits.
The three county executive candidates — Laura Curran, George Maragos and Jack Martins — decried the change as a ploy to protect political allies of Mangano, a Republican who is likely in his last year in office following his October indictment on federal corruption charges.
Laricchiuta acknowledged that the move protects Mangano’s appointees and that the timing might look “fishy.” But he said he had wanted those jobs in his union since he was first elected CSEA president in 2005.
Laricchiuta unsuccessfully asked Mangano and Tom Suozzi, Mangano’s Democratic predecessor, to make the change early in their administrations, he said.
“I took advantage of the timing, because I may never get this opportunity again,” he said.
The positions are called “patronage” jobs because they are given to leaders and activists in the political party that holds the county executive’s office.
Laricchiuta signed an agreement with Rob Walker, the chief deputy county executive, moving the community service positions into the union. But county officials independently shifted 12 deputy county attorneys into vacant assistant county attorney jobs, which were already in the union, Laricchiuta said.
The positions are currently noncompetitive, like about half the county’s civil-service union jobs, so hiring is based on relevant experience, Laricchiuta said.
That means the workers cannot be fired at will, but the county executive could appoint a replacement if any retire or resign, Laricchiuta said. But they would be subject to union hiring rules if the state Civil Service Commission makes the jobs competitive at the county commission’s recommendation, he said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done yet,” Larrichiuta said. “This is just the first step.”
The next county executive should advocate for that change to make sure jobs that belong in the union aren’t subject to political whims, Laricchiuta said.
Maragos, the Democratic county comptroller, said he would support making the jobs competitive. Shifting jobs into the union without prior Civil Service Commission review “should not be condoned,” he said.
“It circumvented the Civil Service System, which ensures that the best candidates are objectively hired with taxpayer money and all the residents are given equal opportunity,” Maragos said in a statement.
Curran, a Democratic county legislator, said she thinks “every qualified person” should have an equal chance at getting a county job, but did not specify whether she would support making the shifted jobs competitive.
“I’ll make sure that happens when I’m County Executive so that all jobs are filled based on what you know, not who you know,” she said in a statement.
E. O’Brien Murray, a spokesman for Martins, a Republican former state senator, said “taxpayers deserved more transparency” with the shift.
“With the right transparency, qualified men and women can be hired no matter how they are classified,” Murray said in a statement.
Ed Ward, a spokesman for Mangano, did not return an email seeking comment.