Madeline Singas’ effectiveness as acting District Attorney has been challenged by her Republican opponent, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, as well as her Democratic primary opponent Michael Scotto.
Questions of how the office is run, the prosecution of political corruption cases and her approach to the heroin crisis are fair game in a run for DA.
What cannot be challenged is Singas’ basic qualifications for office.
Singas, of Manhasset, is a career prosecutor who worked for 15 years in Queens as an assistant district attorney before being tapped by then District Attorney Kathleen Rice to head her office’s newly created special victims unit in 2006 and then become her top assistant.
In January, she was named acting DA after Rice was elected to Congress. She had prosecuted thousands of criminal cases herself and overseen the prosecution of tens of thousands of others.
The same cannot be said for Murray.
Murray is a career politician who has never done criminal law.
She served in the state Assembly from 1998 to 2001, then as Hempstead Town Clerk before being appointed supervisor in 2003, where she continues to serve.
Murray’s lack of knowledge about criminal law was painfully obvious during an interview with the New York Daily News when asked about the investigation of a police shooting of an unarmed resident she appeared to be totally ignorant of the fact that Gov. Cuomo had appointed the state attorney general as a special prosecutor to supersede local district attorneys — a point hotly contested by DAs.
She is also displayed ignorance during that interview about the kind of immunity granted by county grand juries and those convicted of driving while intoxicated.
The DA is the final word on wiretaps, plea deals, and other nuts-and-bolts elements of a criminal investigation. There is no way anyone can be an effective DA without that knowledge.
In an interview with Blank Slate Media, Murray maintained that having knowledge about criminal prosecutions was not necessary. She saw the role of the DA as a CEO, who delegated such details as prosecutions and would provide the “vision” for the office. Her years as supervisor of the Town of Hempstead had provided her with the experience to run a large organization like the DA’s office, she said.
Asked to name the person who would be the final word on criminal investigations, she declined to name anyone, saying she hadn’t had a made a decision yet as to who that would be.
Asked to cited another DA with her background and managerial style, she said she couldn’t.
Which can explain why 64 former prosecutors endorsed Singas in her campaign.
Further, Murray’s claims as a CEO are also challenged by Standard & Poor’s decision in March to reduce the Town of North Hempstead’s bond rating by three levels, citing the town’s use of reserve funds to balance the budget.
Murray has also inspired little confidence in her campaign.
She recently called a press conference to criticize Singas for not firing Jeffrey Stein, the chief administrative officer in her office, after the New York Post reported that his wife alleged he abused her in divorce papers.
Murray said that the failure of Singas — who served in the Queens special victims and began the Nassau special victims unit — to fire Stein had demonstrated an unwillingness to protect domestic abuse victims and was “unfit to serve.”
Had Stein been convicted of abusing his wife? No.
Had Stein been arrested for abusing his wife? No.
So much for innocent until proven guilty. Off with his head.
Good politics, perhaps, but hardly the ethical and legal judgment you would expect to see from a District Attorney.
Murray has countered Singas’ endorsements from former prosecutors with several public shows of support from police unions inside and outside of Nassau County. Murray said she made no promises to the police unions to gain her support and would show no favoritism in who her office chose to prosecute
But Nassau County PBA President James Carver seemed to raise questions about Murray’s willingness to prosecute police when he said Singas’ “promotion of her efforts to prosecute police officers in the county made it harder for him to believe the union could establish a strong working relationship with him. He expressed no such qualms with Murray.
The election for DA comes at a crucial time in Nassau County.
Both the federal government under U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the District Attorney’s office under Singas are or have been conducting investigations involving contracts made by Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay.
So far then-state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been indicted for taking official actions to benefit AbTech Industries, an Arizona-based environmental company that sought and received a contract with Nassau County with the assistance of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who was not accused of any wrongdoing by prosecutors.
Federal agents also arrested Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh was on numerous criminal charges, including bribing a former Town of Oyster Bay employee with $50,000 in checks made out to cash and a $36,000 luxury-car lease.
Newsday reported that Singh paid for the vacations of Ed Mangano and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto at a time restaurateur had county and town contracts.
Now we learn that federal prosecutors sought a judge’s approval to introduce evidence in Skelos’ upcoming corruption trial which they say shows that Rockville Centre Republican tried to use his clout as then-Senate majority leader to get his daughter-in-law placed on a Nassau town zoning board, so his son, Adam, could “corruptly obtain zoning decisions favorable to real estate deals he brokered given his wife’s appointment.”
Skelos, Mangano and Venditto are all Republicans who like, Murray, have strong ties to Nassau County Republican Party and its chairman, Joe Mondello.
Murray, who claims to not have read the Skelos indictment, says party affiliation would play no part in her decisions as DA.
Do we really want to put that claim to the test?
Singas combines the hard-nosed qualities of a good prosecutor with a sensible willingness to use programs that allow young offenders to avoid the stigma of a criminal record and put themselves on the road to a productive life rather than a life of crime.
Singas would be a very strong choice for DA under any circumstances.
In the absence of a reasonable alternative, her election is that much more important.
We strongly endorse Singas.