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Nassau Democratic legislators on Wednesday demanded evidence of the “unique expertise” cited by county parks officials when they recommended the award of two no-bid contracts to a marketing company executive linked to County Executive Edward Mangano through sexually suggestive text messages, which both have disavowed.
Karin Murphy Caro’s BluChip Marketing received a $24,500 contract in 2013 to promote Nassau’s film industry and a $24,000 pact in 2014 for parks department event planning. Both contracts were below the $25,000 threshold that requires a public vote by county legislators.
Each contract was awarded on a “sole source” basis without bidding because, parks officials said in memos, BluChip had “unique expertise” in promoting special events and “has an extremely close relationship with the Nassau County Parks staff that no other marketing firm can match.”
Democratic counsel Peter Clines asked county attorney Carnell Foskey in an email to describe in detail the nature of the close relationship with the parks staff “including the identity of the individuals involved” and also to disclose why no other marketing firm could match that relationship.
Clines also asked for documentation of projects and services provided by BluChip and to identify other vendors disqualified from consideration.
Both Mangano and Caro deny a CBS news report that the two had traded racy text messages and claim they were hacked. Mangano said he has asked county police to investigate.
Caro told Newsday that she did a wide range of work under the contracts, from promoting park properties to running a veterans’ salute that involved purchasing and installing 1,500 flags in front of the county’s executive and legislative building in Garden City.
Newsday reported last year that Nassau had issued hundreds of contracts since 2011 under the $25,000 threshold, many to politically connected companies. For example, two contracts went to Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective who is now a cable news commentator.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who was presiding officer of the legislature in 2000 when voters approved a referendum requiring legislative approval of all personal services contracts of $25,000 or more, said the county executive’s authority to approve lower-cost agreements “is being abused.”
She said the county executive was supposed to use his authority for emergencies and for people with special gifts, not for someone to put up flags around the executive building for a special event.
“I can do that,” Jacobs said.
But Deputy County Executive Ed Ward said the county has followed the same process in awarding such contracts to BluChip as it had for the past 15 years.
He said departments determine if they need a service under $25,000. “If it’s in their budget, they go out for it.” Then various county offices approve the agreement and the county executive’s office signs it. In this case, BluChip’s contracts were signed by Deputy County Executive Rob Walker. Ward said Mangano “didn’t get involved.”
He said the county legislature was notified of the contracts, which are listed at the end of every legislative calendar, and could have questioned them then. He added that Mangano is now asking that pending personal service contracts be listed on the Rules Committee calendar.
As for Cline’s questions, Ward said all the answers were in the contract backup provided to the legislators.
But he said, the administration will respond. “He can have all the information he’s requesting.”