There was no previous need for state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit Nassau County's contracting process, but the county's failure to submit costly contracts to a state oversight board has guaranteed yet another level of intervention in its operations.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority declared a control period last March, upon finding the county's budget and the revenue projections heading in opposite directions. As a result, County Executive Edward Mangano agreed to submit all contracts over $50,000 to NIFA for its approval, after the legislature allowed them. This worked until Mangano handed the legislature $6.8 million in bills in December for outside legal expenses run up by John Ciampoli, the county attorney.

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The legislature rightly exploded at Mangano and Ciampoli. The pair had ignored extravagant contracts -- at a time when hundreds of public workers were to be laid off -- as well as a public referendum requiring approval of all contracts of more than $25,000.

Next in line to approve the $6.8 million was NIFA, but all it knew of the contracts came from news reports. So at year's end, it asked DiNapoli to step in to review "several irregularities."

DiNapoli's audit must be independent and speedy. Besides the legal services contracts, his office should examine the integrity of the contracting process to ensure no unathorized expenditures are slipping into the ledgers.

Mangano says he welcomes the audit. So should Nassau's taxpayers.