Our Views: The lessons, questions from Gerard Terry’s fall

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The fall of Gerard Terry, the chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic Party, is both sad and telling.

 

As Newsday reported, the Roslyn Heights resident compiled income tax debt of $1.4 million and faced lawsuits alleging fraud and failure to pay back taxes while holding down six government jobs controlled by Democratic Party officials or in party enclaves that paid him more than $217,000 last year.

 

This includes $74,000 as North Hempstead Town special counsel and attorney for the board of zoning appeals — not bad for part-time work.

Even more impressive since for three years Terry was not an attorney in good standing, having not submitted a $375 registration filing that is to be completed every two years. Terry’s wife, Concetta, also works for North Hempstead as deputy town clerk, a position that paid $80,000 in 2015.

Is it possible that Terry and his wife were the most qualified person for each job?

Sure, in the same way that it’s possible you might get hit by a meteorite on way home from work.

Democrats allied with Terry including North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, former Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs all said they were unaware of the size of Terry’s tax liens.

We shouldn’t take these officials at their word for this.

Bosworth said she has asked Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin to undertake a “comprehensive” review and advise her on “any necessary changes in town policy and procedures that we need to take.” That’s not enough.

That Terry could amass $1.4 million in tax liens and face at five lawsuits in Nassau County Supreme Court — one of which led to a judgment for a home foreclosure and sale in 2000 — without being noticed by his fellow Democrats defies both logic and common sense.

An investigation into what was known and when about Terry’s problems is needed immediately.

And even if  Terry’s Democratic allies were ignorant of his problems — an if the size of a small planet in our minds — they shouldn’t have been.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas issued a statement in the wake of the disclosures about Terry that his background “should disqualify any lawyer from government work and this matter underscores the importance of more robust contractor screening protocols and oversight that I’ve called for at the county level.”

Clearly, the town could use the same advice — and should take immediately steps to implement Singas’ recommendations.

But voters should not leave full responsibility to officials that Terry helped elect to do the right thing.

Giving people jobs for work on behalf of a candidate or political party is deeply ingrained in politics at every level.

It is a dirty little secret that political parties in control enjoy an enormous advantage in enlisting supporters for future campaigns — people whose jobs depend on a particular candidate to be re-elected.

Take a quick look at the list of appointed employees and government contractors and compare them with political contributors and party members.

They are the people you can count on to vote and provide campaign contributions.

If the average citizen — the ones whose livelihood doesn’t depend on who is in office — want change, they need to raise their voices and, when time comes, vote.

Indifference is a vote for the status quo.

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