By Jared Chausow
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Like many other people in a place ruled by a single political party, Marion Miller of Rockville Centre thought a campaign contribution to someoneanyonein the Nassau GOP machine "couldn't hurt." So a year ago, Miller, a registered Republican, sent $15 to County Executive Tom Gulotta's campaign committee. Next thing she knew, it was August 1999 and Rockville Centre Mayor Gene Murray was waving a copy of the Long Island Voice in front of her nose: A story contrasting Nassau County's $300 million deficit with Gulotta's steady accumulation of more than $2 million in campaign cash, even though he's not running for anything but his life ["Golden Boy," Aug. 5], mentioned that Miller had donated $1,000 to Gulotta.
Irate, she fired off a letter to the Voice. She was angry that the publicity would tarnish the name of her labor of love, the Rockville Center Guild for the Arts. After being told that, indeed, Gulotta's own campaign records showed she had donated $1,000, she trained her guns on Gulotta's staff.
"This listing, which is totally false and would seem to indicate that my name and address have been used to cover another's donation, is troubling, to say the least," Miller wrote to Gulotta on Aug. 27. "I hope this is not the case. ...A reply from you regarding this obvious false listing is requested without delay."
For once, Gulotta took some prompt action on a financial matter. Four days later, Gulotta aide Bob Sherman, who gets paid $97,798 as chief of staff but who somehow finds time to be campaign treasurer for his boss, replied to Miller by letter. "Upon investigation of this matter," he wrote, "it was determined that the campaign received check #252, dated October 8, 1998, from Mr. Dominick Minerva.
"The contribution was reported on page 7 of Schedule A of the report you reference. For reasons that I am unable to explain, the computer software used to prepare the report also attributed this same contribution as being received from you. I appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention and am sorry that this incident has caused you great embarrassment."
OK, so the dog ate the homework.
But sometimes the dog throws up afterwards.
In August, the Gulotta campaign had to return $200 illegally contributed by the Incorporated Village of Bellerose. When asked by the Voice about their contribution, officials of the tiny municipality along the Nassau-Queens border swore they didn't give money to Citizens for Tom Gulotta. Then they changed their tune and said all they did was buy tickets to a GOP dinner after it was strongly suggested to them that they do so. But Sherman says the check was made out to the campaign committee. In any case, the campaign committee returned that improper donation.
In the case of the mistake involving Mrs. Miller, Sherman tells the Voice that he plans to file an addendum correcting the campaign report by removing her name from the $1,000 donation. However, Gulotta doesn't have to file another report until next January because he's not up for re-election this fall. The machine's executive leader in Merrick, he's been collecting campaign funds to stave off attempts by machine boss Joe Mondello to oust him from the county before he drags the other machine pols down with him. At last count, the machine had more than $2.5 million in its coffers, but that cash has to be shared by a number of campaignsunlike Gulotta's money, which is his alone, some if it stashed in interest-bearing accounts. And both sides in this intraparty war have chosen to spend money on television propaganda instead of restoring cuts in county programs or paying bills to social-service agencies that actually do the work of government.
However, Gulotta probably shouldn't count on any more checks from Mrs. Miller. She tells the Voice that the $15 she actually did send in was her first, and probably last, political donation.
That likely won't be the case with Dominick Minerva.
The ex-mayor of Valley Stream has fed at the public trough for years as an attorney in private practice who has been hired by various machine politicians to work as a lawyer for the huge Sanitary District No. 1 in the Town of Hempstead, the Nassau County Bridge Authority and the Water Authority of Western Nassau County.
Gulotta's campaign records show that, in addition to the $1,000 contribution Minerva made on Oct. 8, 1998, he sent along $500 last Dec. 3.