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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau County contract referendum appears to be stalling

Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey has yet to

Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey has yet to issue an opinion on a proposed referendum for an independent contract monitor, and time is running out to get it on the ballot. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

It’s Friday. High noon.

Do you know where the county attorney’s opinion on the legality of adding a referendum to the Nassau County ballot on an independent contract monitor is?

It’s been a month since Nassau Democrats filed petitions to get the question on the ballot.

And there’s a point beyond which any decision from Carnell Foskey, the county attorney, won’t matter — because it will come too late to amend ballots for November’s elections.

Why no word from Foskey?

He could not be reached for comment Friday after a request was put into Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano.

Nevin said the request should go to a spokesman for Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), the legislature’s presiding officer — who said she didn’t know why the matter should go through the legislature when the county attorney’s office reported to Mangano.

Nevin said the administration stuck by an earlier statement that “this is purely a legislative Charter issue and not within the purview of the County Executive.” Nevin continued, “I refer you to the Legislature, other than to say the Charter-created Commissioner of Investigations has all of the powers of an Inspector General.”

A legislative charter issue?

Is that something different from Nassau’s charter, which mandates that a referendum request clear the legislature’s Rules Committee, and then go to the full 19-member body?

And be signed by the county executive, at least 60 days before the public vote?

Sounds more like a process — and one that, at this point, demands some sense of urgency — rather than an issue left to be resolved solely by lawmakers. Besides, lawmakers can do zilch until Foskey either kills the referendum drive or sends it to the legislature to decide.

While Foskey wasn’t available for an interview Friday, this week he issued a statement to Newsday saying that the matter was “being reviewed both as to form and substance. Issues being examined include whether the legislation is constitutional and whether the county legislature has the authority to enact it.”

What’s taking so long?

The referendum would ask Nassau voters whether they want to create an independent inspector general’s office to police the county’s contracting process, which remains under investigation by Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas.

Is there a constitutional issue? And are we talking state or federal? As for whether the legislature has the power to authorize a referendum, Nassau’s charter states clearly that it does.

This week, Democrats said they believed the referendum to be all but dead. The next regular meeting of the county legislature is Sept. 12 — too late to meet the Sept. 8 deadline to approve the referendum.

Ah, but the legislature is coming back on Monday, in an emergency session, to vote on the proposed Garvies Point waterfront redevelopment in Glen Cove.

That affords Foskey a chance to issue a decision, in time for it to matter.

But no.

It looks like the Democrats’ drive to let the people decide will end with a whimper. Before completion of investigations involving Nassau contracts potentially deliver the next bang.


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