Thursday, February 25, 2010

To The Victor Go The Spoils

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Winning elected office typically means jobs. Jobs for political allies. Jobs for friends. Jobs for those who helped you along the way, stood by you, and have shown undying allegiance.

And, as a rule, that's a good thing. After all, but for keeping them closer, who else are you going to appoint and reward, your enemies?

The question isn't so much about patronage, which, like it or not, has existed, in one form or another, since time immemorial. It's a matter of qualification for the job, and, of at least equal moment, a question of whether there is really a job to be done.

Yes, Nassau County needs a Parks Commissioner, but two -- each "earning" the same six-figure salary?

And what qualifications does the most recent Park's appointee, Carnell Foskey, have to serve as Commissioner? His predecessor, Jose Lopez, was a former Health Ed teacher. At least that has something to do with recreation, right? Perhaps that's why they kept him on.

Not that bright, determined, dedicated people, such as Foskey, can't "grow" into the job. Many with little or no experience in their anointed fields have, through savvy and hard work, proven themselves worthy of their appointed positions.

Still, did Carnell Foskey get the nod because of his aptitude? Or, as we suspect, was it merely a matter of political connection -- who you know (and your party affiliation), rather than what you know?

We suspect the latter.

Patronage has its place in our political system, abuses notwithstanding.

Go ahead and give that job to a friend, colleague, or political ally, as long as that person has what it takes to do the job (and he's not your father, brother, or third cousin, twice removed).
- - -
From Newsday:

Government patronage jobs: Time to stop pretending


Of all the convicted felons in Nassau County, County Executive Edward Mangano deemed only one worthy of a second chance - and a $90,000 job on the Nassau County payroll. And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Herberth Flores, the lucky felon, also helped the county executive wrangle the Latino vote during the campaign?

Coincidentally - or not - the county's also hired Flores' sister, who also helped Mangano's campaign, as a $40,000 administrative assistant.

Across the county border in Suffolk, of all the lawyers in the Town of Huntington, only one was deemed uniquely qualified for a part-time, $50,000-a-year post (with health care benefits and public pension) to join the town's legal office - at a time when the budget is so fragile that there's a townwide hiring and salary freeze on nonessential positions.

And residents are supposed to believe it's a coincidence that Democrat Stuart Besen, the lucky lawyer, also just happens to be a newly defeated council member in a Democrat-run town?

Back in Nassau, we hear that only one resident had the skills to rise to become the county's new parks commissioner.

That lucky fellow, Carnell Foskey, will be making the exact same salary - $130,625 - as the guy he replaced. The former commissioner, Jose Lopez, it turns out, is a very lucky guy, too. Despite a demotion to deputy commissioner, he'll keep making commissioner money. Which means that Nassau is getting two parks commissioners for the price of - ta-da! - two.

And yet Nassau residents are supposed to believe that Foskey's appointment had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the longtime Republican lost re-election to Family Court last year. Or that Mangano, as he promised, is leaving no stone unturned in a quest to reduce the cost of government.

It's been painful watching for two weeks as elected officials in Nassau and in the Town of Huntington - actually, it's been their spokesmen - twisted into pretzels trying to explain how business as usual isn't really business as usual.

The fact is that all four appointments are blatant patronage appointments.

On Foskey, nobody could explain Wednesday why two parks officials were making the same salary. When his appointment was announced, Mangano, in what read like a canned statement, said his goal was to restore county parks to their "former glory."

He also praised Foskey, but didn't address what skills Foskey - or, for that matter, the highly compensated Lopez - had to do the job.

In Huntington, Town Supervisor Frank Petrone's spokesman, A.J. Carter, pointed out the town had filled a number of other necessary jobs despite the freeze, from plumbers to $70,000-a-year supervisory positions.

And he repeated what he had said about the appointment two weeks ago: Besen is qualified, especially since he had the job before being elected to office.

No one expects elected officials to say, hey, this guy scratched my back, so I'm going to scratch his. Or, hey, these guys are good Republicans or Democrats, so we're going to help them out, especially since it's so tough to get a job these days.

That might be a little too honest, since patronage hiring always has been the reward for political work.

Still, trying to pass bears off as butterflies is worse.

So stop it, already.

1 comment:

  1. We are disappointed and saddened to learn of the appointment of former Family Court Judge Carnell Fosky as the new Nassau County Parks Commissioner by County Executive Edward Mangano. This is political patronage at its worst and of the type we have decried in both parties. Current Commissioner Jose Lopez, a patronage appointee of former County Executive Thomas Suozzi is being demoted to Deputy Commissioner with no loss of pay and marginalized by being sent to the Muttontown Preserve office and put in charge of “Special Events” (ala Doreen Banks).

    The politicians of Nassau County really don't get it. Unwarranted and unjustifiable patronage appointments to any public office or employment are unacceptable at any time. In economic times such as these, they should rise to an impeachable offense. As we've stated before, patronage can only be tolerated under the following rules: The position being filled is a real job, not an imaginary one, and there is no current employee available to fill it and the new appointee must be uniquely qualified for the position. Obviously that is not the case here.

    Whatever qualifications Judge Fosky and Jose Lopez had or have, they are not administering a critical department such as Parks and Recreation and restoring it to some semblance of its former glory. We can only hope that the county legislature will withhold its approval, but we are not holding our breath.

    When will public needs supersede political expediency in Nassau County? When will Nassau Parks get a park professional to lead it, albeit slowly, out of the neglect it has suffered starting in 1992 and until now? More than ever, Nassau residents need their parks and they need them clean, crime free and accessible. That means they need a real commissioner that knows how to manage them and they need that now.

    Bruce Piel
    Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
    246 Twin Lane East
    Wantagh, NY 11793-1963
    (516) 783-8378