43° Good Afternoon
43° Good Afternoon
Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Brown: Nassau Republicans need to act on contract reforms

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks about how

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks about how he is governing in the wake of the federal case against him on corruption-related charges on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

One, two, three Republican sources told Newsday’s Celeste Hadrick about meetings Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello had with GOP lawmakers last week.

The chairman, sources said, advised lawmakers to separate themselves from fellow Republican Edward Mangano, Nassau’s county executive, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption-related charges — while also stressing the need for transparency and anti-corruption measures in county government.

Good government in Nassau?

Good grief!

That must mean it’s election season — which it is, with every county office except the district attorney’s up for grabs in November.

It also must mean that the county Republican Party, which tends to poll aggressively, is picking up on residents’ anger and weariness over how Nassau works.

To be fair, Nassau isn’t the only Long Island municipality tarnished by the questionable behavior of its elected or political party officials.

But really, if there were a who-has-the-most-jelly-beans-in-the-jar contest on the matter, surely Nassau would win. Hands down.

What’s troubling is the municipality’s devotion to traveling the same old road — by addressing problems with promises, rather than action.

Last week, Newsday’s Paul LaRocco was putting the final touches on yet another report about Nassau’s contracting system.

You know — the one involving Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, who was the State Senate majority leader — and the venerable dean of Long Island’s powerful Republican delegation until his conviction on corruption-related charges.

At the center of the case against Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, was a $12 million Nassau contract for an anti-water-pollution firm. On wiretaps played at trial, the two were heard plotting to reward the contract to AbTech Industries, which had given Adam Skelos a job.

Dean Skelos was first indicted in 2015; he and his son were convicted in 2016. Both are appealing.

But, pray, what has Nassau done since to corruption-proof its contracting system?

Even as Mangano and Republican lawmakers were embarrassed into putting a series of measures into place, which they said would fix the contracting system, Democrats including District Attorney Madeline Singas kept insisting that more had to be done.

Meanwhile, LaRocco deconstructed hundreds of county contracts and, after building his own database, began to bang out a series of stories, about:

  • Contracts awarded after work already had been started, and in some instances, completed.
  • Contracts awarded at dollar levels just below the threshold that would have required legislative review.
  • Requests for proposals that attracted vendors including VIP Splash, a company that was incorporated in New York State two days before Nassau issued an RFP that appeared tailor-made to fit the company’s work.

In each case, Nassau either defended its system, or tweaked it a little more. But always too late, and always too little.

About a year ago, a county law requiring vendors to disclose contributions went into effect. It doesn’t appear to be working.

According to a story by LaRocco last week, dozens of vendors have given nearly $200,000 that never appeared on disclosure forms — most of it to political party committees with close ties to top county officials.

All told, 52 companies that received at least one contract put before the county legislature for approval donated a total of $183,000 not captured by the new forms, which cover county officeholders and candidates.

Is that transparent? Corruption-proof?

No — which leaves the Republican majority in the county legislature only a sliver of real estate on which to separate themselves from Mangano.

If Republicans want more territory, there’s one way to get it.

Pass the reforms — including an independent contracting monitor — recommended by a panel Mangano brought on last year.

There’s no magic required to get that done — only legislative will.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News