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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Culture of cover up: How deep is it?

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano speaks beside Nassau

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano speaks beside Nassau County Police Department First Deputy Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter, left, at the Nassau County Public Safety Center in Westbury, during a press conference regarding a sting operation that resulted in the arrests of contractors who scammed superstorm Sandy victims. (June 27, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

Jaws must be dropping at the increasing number of ongoing investigations across Long Island.

In Suffolk, the district attorney's office carted away boxes of business records and computer hard drives from a Huntington firm with almost $70 million in Sandy-removal contracts in Nassau County.

Suffolk's district attorney also is looking to impanel a grand jury, sources have told Newsday, to look into what a police internal affairs report determined was an unjustified beating and shooting of an unarmed cabdriver by an off-duty Nassau police officer in 2011.

And then there's the state attorney general's office, which has subpoenaed the Nassau GOP and County Executive Edward Mangano's re-election campaign for information about contributions from Sandy-related contractors.

The AG's office also is collecting information on expenses related to a MetLife Stadium skybox purchased by a political committee headed by Mangano's chief deputy, Rob Walker.

That was just last week.

All of these probes were piled atop of the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking into Suffolk's police department to determine whether the chief of department violated the civil rights of a suspect who alleged he'd been punched.

And the Suffolk district attorney is looking into how Sandy contracts were awarded in Suffolk's five most populous towns -- and in the county itself.

And the State AG and Labor Department and U.S. Homeland Security and Labor departments are probing Sandy-related matters.

It's almost enough to induce investigation fatigue.

But it shouldn't.

The allegations -- and at this point, these are allegations -- are serious.

And what's equally disturbing is that they almost appear to be far-reaching, leaving neither county untouched.

It is essential that the investigations are complete, that agencies dig and keep digging.

Because at its core, all of the queries boil down to one essential question: Is there a culture of corruption and cover-up on Long Island? And if so, how deep, how wide does it go?

Most importantly, what can -- and should -- residents do about it?

The investigations involve municipal operations in both counties and in five Suffolk towns. Most of them center on how municipalities awarded public funds to contractors, and whether residents got their money's worth.

And the AG's investigation of campaign contributions in Nassau ultimately will attempt to answer a key question: Did firms have to pay -- in the form of campaign contributions -- to play -- by getting contracts?

Municipal officials in towns and counties say they've got nothing to hide. A lawyer for the police officer who shot cabdriver Thomas Moroughan says his client will be exonerated.

Spokesmen for Mangano, and the Nassau GOP blamed the investigations on county Democrats launching a political vendetta. And Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is standing firm behind his chief of department, James Burke.

But the investigators ought to be as thorough, and as speedy, as possible.

Because if there are problems, residents need to know.

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