Assemblyman says he doesn’t play politics


State Assemblyman Michael Montesano, who appeared as a witness for the prosecution on Monday in the federal corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, said he was surprised when he received a call two weeks ago requesting that he testify.

“The investigators had in their notes that Linda Mangano said I had offered her a job as a consultant,” Montesano said. “I didn’t speak to her and offer her anything.”

The lifelong Republican from Glen Head has been a Glen Cove attorney for 28 years, focusing his practice on estate work. He was also previously a police officer and a detective in the New York City Police Department, and an emergency medical technician supervisor and investigator for the New York City Emergency Medical Service.

Montesano prides himself on doing the right thing, he said, adding that that was what he did when Jim Picken, the Oyster Bay Republican leader in 2010, asked him to hire Mangano’s wife at his district office for $85,000 a year. That would have wiped out the assemblyman’s staff budget. “To hire her would have been impractical,” Montesano said. “I need more than one person to run my office.”

He added, “It’s not a good idea to hire someone of prominence like that. It would be a distraction.”

Asked whether he felt pressured by the party leader to hire Linda Mangano, he was adamant. “No,” he said. “I exercise my own judgment, and that’s the way it is.”

Attorney James Versocki, of Sea Cliff, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Oyster Bay Town Board in 2017, said he was surprised by Montesano’s testimony. “You don’t see a lot of breaking of the Nassau GOP machine,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised they give out jobs. But it was nice to see someone admit to how they operate. And Linda Mangano did end up doing better, making $450,000 for a no-show job instead of $85,000 for Mike.”

Picken’s request that he hire Linda Mangano came on Feb. 9, 2010, when Montesano won a special Assembly election. Republican Rob Walker had vacated his seat after accepting a job as Mangano’s chief deputy county executive.

Montesano said there’s nothing unusual about a chairman or party leader asking if there is an opening to hire someone. “But then they’d send a resume, and if the person was qualified, I would consider hiring them if I have the funds,” he said. “I never even saw a resume for Linda Mangano.”

Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Glen Cove, said he believed that a resume from Linda Mangano would not have shown any qualifications for the job. “Running a district Assembly office requires a certain skill set,” Lavine said. “Linda has none of those attributes in her experiences that would qualify her.”

He added that he was never asked by his own party to hire anyone. “Every time someone’s political favorite gets a job in government, that’s one less job for people who are qualified,” Lavine said. “It’s a kind of discrimination. But that’s the way the Republican Party operates here locally.”

Versocki said he isn’t certain whether there is an ethical code prohibiting a political party from suggesting that someone be hired for a government job. If there isn’t he said there should be one. “This is what happens when one party controls an area for so many years,” he said. “There are not checks and balances and you think you can do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, is charged with obstructing justice and making false statements to the FBI. Her husband and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto are accused of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services fraud. Additionally, Venditto has been charged with securities fraud, and Ed Mangano with extortion. All three have pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Montesano said he has never had a friendship with Ed or Linda Mangano. “When I ran for legislator in 2009, I met them on the campaign trail,” he said. “It was just, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and you keep moving.”

Although he had no intention of hiring Linda, Montesano said he believed that a phone call was in order. He called the Mangano home twice, leaving messages. “I think they were away or something,” he said, adding that Ed Mangano eventually did call him back, saying that his wife was not interested in a job. “I told him I wasn’t offering her a job.”

Montesano is running for re-election in November. Asked whether the trial of local Republican leaders concerns him, he said it did. “People look at this and draw with a broad brush, thinking everyone is doing wrong,” he said. “That is not the case. Like any large organization, you have someone doing something wrong. Each political party has its share of headaches. I do my job.”