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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau may need outside prosecutor for corruption cases

Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas is

Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas is seen in Mineola on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Madeline Singas, Nassau's acting district attorney, seems to be aggressively prodding a grand jury to issue subpoenas related to recent Newsday reports about potential irregularities in contracts, political club filings and travel by top officials.

That has some in and out of Nassau government worried -- even as federal prosecutors go about their own investigations.

Well, good for Singas, who almost every day, it seems, is announcing her office's intent to investigate a new revelation.

But the news reports -- about contracts awarded with no legislative action, bids rewritten in ways that favored insiders and a political contributor arranging travel for County Executive Edward Mangano -- keep coming.

With them, a pattern of how the relationship between politics, money and public policy have become so tightly, so completely bound together in Nassau has emerged. It's a Gordian knot, impossible to untangle -- unless the strands are sawed away from each other one by one.

That's likely one reason Singas' office intends to issue a request for proposals to bring in outside experts to help.

So many ongoing investigations. And yet, Nassau has no elected district attorney and it will stay that way until January, after voters have decided on the successor to Democrat Kathleen Rice, who was district attorney before going to Congress.

Until then, Singas -- a Democrat, who is running for the job -- remains a caretaker, albeit one with all of the duties and powers of the office.

But how can Nassau residents expect Singas to sort through so much, and with so little time? She has to prepare for a September Democratic primary against former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Scotto. And should Singas win, she'll then face outgoing Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican, in the general election in November.

Singas says she's certain she can do both. And, she's said, she's committed to rooting out corruption.

Still, wouldn't it be more of a service to Nassau residents if Singas made a clean break between campaigning, and handling the growing number of contract and related investigations?

Instead of going for an RFP for additional help, wouldn't Singas do better -- and, frankly, bulletproof her anti-corruption campaign sales pitch -- by going to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and requesting that he allow the state attorney general's office to take over the investigations?

Yes, federal prosecutors -- sources tell Newsday -- are digging. But federal prosecutors are concerned with violations of federal law -- which should not absolve the state from dealing with potential violations of New York law.

Singas could hire prosecutors seasoned in public corruption cases. She could impanel a special grand jury on corruption and even ask the AG's office to assign a special prosecutor, who would report to her office.

But Singas' investigations are piling up -- and there's no guarantee voters will keep the acting DA around long enough to see those investigations through.

Which is why requesting an outsider is the way to go.

The way to stop potential corruption is to ferret it out, and, where appropriate, punish it.

Why should Nassau's residents have to wait for federal prosecutors to get that job done?

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