Nassau legislators spar over Sandy cleanup spending

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Nassau Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) on Monday took on Looks Great Services after the tree-debris removal firm threatened to sue her for questioning more than $40 million the county expects to pay the Huntington company for Superstorm Sandy cleanup.

"I'm not going to let them intimidate me in any way," said DeRiggi-Whitton, who has complained about a Looks Great crew that cut down 111 trees in the Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove.

But the first-term legislator also complained that Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) suggested in a letter that DeRiggi-Whitton was hampering the county's reimbursement efforts by asking to see invoices from Looks Great and also for the names of vendors and bills submitted for $240,000 in Sanldy-related food orders, for which the county is seeking repayment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gonsalves was responding to a DeRiggi-Whitton letter Friday requesting additional information about bills involving $213 million in expenses that Nassau attributes to Sandy cleanup.

The presiding officer wrote that she was "perplexed" by DeRiggi-Whittons' request  when county officials answered her questions during committee meetings. "I do not understand your reasoning for these actions, unless this is a political exercise by you on the backs of those residents and areas hard hit by the storm."

Gonsalves added, "Your insistence on revisiting the very topics and areas dealt with previously evidence your continued efforts to derail funding the storm recovery...."

The presiding officer said in an interview Monday that she wasn't accusing DeRiggi-Whitton of hampering relief efforts, but added, "We have given her as much information as we can get her...This is big money we're talking about. The sooner we submit the work orders, the sooner we can get reimbursed. You've seen what's going on in Washington. I'm concerned."

DeRiggi-Whitton said Monday, "to attack me politically is a cheap shot to avoid providing me the information I'm requesting....We cannot turn our back on our responsibility to be careful with our taxpayer's money. The day we can't ask questions is the day we close our doors."

DeRiggi-Whitton abstained from voting for a $98 million appropriation, which was approved 17-0. Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) was absent.

"My abstention will in no way delay any relief for this storm. I need to have my questions answered before I feel comfortable spending the county’s money," she said..


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