MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Taxpayers on Long Island are questioning why large blocks of political appointees were recently given union jobs.

Is the Nassau County executive protecting them before the next election?

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When CBS2 last spoke with embattled Ed Mangano and asked if he planned to run again, he said to “stay tuned.”

But his recent decisions signal that he expects to leave office, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

While fighting federal corruption charges, he moved more than 40 politically appointed employees into competitive union positions that will protect them from being fired.

“Political cronyism. That’s unfair. Not right at all,” one man said.

“We taxpayers are paying for these salaries. It should be on the basis of job performance,” another said.

“We should have more of a say, and we need to make a change,” a man added.

Others lambasting Mangano’s actions are those battling for his job, including Democratic Comptroller George Maragos and legislator Laura Curran.

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“The process is just wrong that you are all of a sudden at the 11th hour protecting people who could very well be political cronies,” Curran said.

“It sends the wrong message, and frankly I am appalled that they went through that process at this time after eight years,” Republican candidate Jack Martins said.

Twelve deputy county attorneys and 26 community service representatives have been reclassified, and six vacant civil service positions have been filled.

The CSEA Union president said the move is actually good for taxpayers.

“We did nothing wrong. We didn’t collude with anything,” CSEA President Jerry Laricchuita said. “When I was offered something I was trying to get for 12 years, we took it.”

In addition, Mangano’s top aide has moved on after being hired by Oyster Bay’s new administration as a public information officer.

Brian Nevin will now earn a salary of $163,000 in a town facing severe budget problems and cleaning house following the indictment of its former Republican supervisor for kickbacks and bribery, McLogan reported.

“Once I knew that Brian was available, we brought him on board, and he is doing the job of three people that I don’t have to hire,” Oyster Bay Town Supervisors Joseph Saladino said, adding that Mangano never asked him to hire Nevin.

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Mangano’s trial is scheduled for mid-January. He has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges and said he will not resign before his term expires on Decemeber 31.