MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — He runs one of America's largest suburban counties and has repeatedly deflected questions about federal probes of political cronies and personal friends. But until last week, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano never had to utter one of the most dreaded phrases of 21st-century politics: "I have not sexted."
The 53-year-old Long Island Republican, a married father of two, found himself the focus of a television report on the eve of Valentine' Day that alleged sexually suggestive texts were sent from his phone to a public relations executive who received two no-bid county contracts worth nearly $50,000.
Mangano responded on camera that someone had obviously hacked into his phone, an explanation that drew immediate comparisons to former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner after he was accused of sexting in 2011.
"I am outraged at this smear attempt and will take legal action against the sick individual who has sought to assassinate my character and hurt my family," Mangano said in a statement.
Investigating such a case involving one of Long Island's most powerful politicians raised questions, particularly since Mangano is the chief executive of a county of 1.3 million people and has control over a $2.9 billion budget, 7,250 employees, public works, social services and, most notably, the police.
A police news release issued after the TV report said that 10 days earlier, Mangano had filed a complaint claiming he was the target of a social media "spoof." Police said WCBS-TV provided investigators with a document from an anonymous source that appears to be a cut-and-paste of sexually suggestive texts from an 'Ed M.' and tweet from Karin Caro.
The Associated Press is not publishing the alleged texts because police wouldn't confirm their contents. Authorities also declined to say whether the number belonged to Mangano's personal cellphone or a government-issued phone.
Police said Mangano and the 40-year-old Caro, who runs a public relations company, have "no record of any such text or tweet." They said detectives also reviewed Mangano's social media account and found no record of a tweet. Caro, according to the police statement, said she never had social media communication with Mangano, nor does she have his cellphone number.
In a video Caro produced that was put on YouTube in 2013, she is shown interviewing Mangano in his office, thanking him for "giving a regular girl like me the opportunity to sit down with you; I mean, you're an amazing guy."
Caro issued her own statement saying that she and Mangano had been "maliciously attacked" and that the texts were fabricated. She said she was currently "going through a trying period of my life regarding abuse and attacks" but declined to elaborate. Calls to Caro and her attorney from the AP seeking further comment were not returned.
Caro received two contracts to provide "unique expertise" in promoting special events for the county's parks department. The contracts were for just under $25,000, a sum that does not require county legislative approval.
Mangano, serving his second four-year term, has also come under scrutiny over his political ties to former state Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau resident who was convicted in December of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.
One of Mangano's close friends is a restaurateur facing federal charges of bribing a town official. The restaurateur, Harendra Singh, arranged and paid for vacations for the county executive and his family, according to Newsday. Mangano has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
In 2013, Police Commissioner Thomas Dale resigned after interfering in an election-year dispute over petition signatures for a third-party candidate for county executive.
Former District Attorney Kathleen Rice found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing but said Mangano must "look beyond that threshold and evaluate the actions of the department for ethical and administrative propriety."
Similar questions have been raised in the current investigation.
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the new district attorney should be in charge of the handling the case instead of the police because Mangano is expected to nominate the acting police commissioner, Thomas Krumpter, to run the department.
"He has to investigate the guy who is going to appoint him," Giacalone said of Krumpter. "It would be the best course of action to hand this over."
Giacalone also questioned why there was no written police complaint, only a verbal one. If no formal police complaint exists, he suggested, it could insulate Mangano from charges of filing a false report if his allegations of being hacked are disproven.
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