Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

Nassau County legislators said last week that they didn't know that the son of State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was on the payroll of a firm awarded a contract that federal prosecutors reportedly are scrutinizing as part of a corruption probe.

But here's the thing.

Lawmakers on Nassau's Rules Committee had a chance to ask whatever questions they wished about the contract before approving it.

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But that didn't happen.

In fact, almost nothing happened during a July 1, 2013, legislative exchange involving the contract with AbTech Industries, which had hired Skelos' son, Adam, as a consultant.

Here's the entire transcript.

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Kenneth Arnold [a public works department aide]: "This is a personal services agreement with AbTech Industries to design, construct, maintain and monitor [an] end-of-pipe filtering system for our storm water program."

Norma Gonsalves [Rules Committee chairwoman, and the legislature's presiding officer]: "Any questions of Mr. Arnold regarding this contract?"

(No verbal response.)

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"Is there any public comment?"

(No verbal response.)

"There being none, all in favor . . . signify by saying aye."

(Aye.)

"Opposed?"

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(No verbal response.)

And, with that, the $12 million contract -- which required no other legislative action -- won unanimous approval.

Let's flash back now to 1996, when then-Presiding Officer Bruce Blakeman instructed the county public works department to list officers, principals and shareholders for all firms being awarded public works contracts -- particularly those that, like AbTech's -- were not awarded to the lowest bidder.

Blakeman did so just three months into the legislature's very first term. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Blakeman, now a Republican Hempstead Town Board member, said then.

The mantra might have come in handy for Nassau lawmakers who now say they did not know Adam Skelos was working for AbTech. Or that he, according to a county source, had introduced Nassau public works employees to AbTech.

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Neither Skelos, his son nor AbTech have been accused of any wrongdoing.

According to a letter accompanying the proposed contract that lawmakers received, Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, Nassau's public works commissioner, said the county anticipated being reimbursed for the contract's costs through "grants from New York State to harden infrastructure . . ."

Elsewhere in the letter, the commissioner writes that Nassau hoped to fund the contract cost through a variety of sources, including New York State, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal programs.

"It's a case of coulda, woulda, shoulda on asking questions and on seeking more information," Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said Friday.

In Nassau, in fact, asking questions is the only way lawmakers could suss out any potential political connections before contract votes.

That's because -- unlike Suffolk County -- Nassau has no laws regulating lobbying, despite moves in the early 2000s, when Jacobs was presiding officer, that ended up going nowhere.

In addition, the county's disclosure law requires only that principals -- not consultants, lobbyists or stockholders, as Blakeman once demanded -- be divulged in contracts.

But some change might be coming.

On Friday, Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) and a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano said that the pair are developing a lobbying disclosure law. It could, a Mangano spokesman said, be introduced as early as next week.