The State Commission of Correction determined the deaths of two...

The State Commission of Correction determined the deaths of two inmates at Nassau County Jail in 2014 could have been prevented. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Democratic Nassau County lawmakers have asked the Albany commission that has been sharply critical of the county jail’s health care provider for a direct briefing on the agency’s investigations into inmate deaths.

In a Nov. 30 letter the minority caucus legislators also told the state Commission of Correction that Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato refused to answer questions about the contractor, Armor Correctional Health Services, in the wake of the state’s findings.

The dispatch also accused Nassau Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) of failing to share the findings of the oversight agency, which directed the legislature to do a separate inquiry into Armor’s fitness to treat jail inmates.

The commission concluded Armor has a pattern of providing inadequate and negligent inmate care, and the 2014 deaths of inmates John Gleeson and Kevin Brown could have been prevented.

Democrats said they’ve been completely left out of any local inquiry, delivering the message in a letter from Legislature Public Safety Committee members Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the legislature’s minority leader, along with Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Laura Curran (D- Baldwin).

They claimed any local Armor inquiry is being done “with zero transparency on a completely partisan basis.” They also asked the commission to give Democrats its Armor reports and meet with all Nassau legislators to discuss the local inquiry’s status.

But Gonsalves reacted to the Democrats’ letter Tuesday by saying she’d been looking into Armor for months.

“I have always had an open-door policy, if Kevan had bothered to simply pick up the phone or walk down the hallway, he’d know that my inquiry has been ongoing since September,” she said in a statement.

Gonsalves also provided documents showing a lawyer for Republican legislators, Christopher Ostuni, filed a public record request Oct. 1 with the commission seeking documents that included all files on Gleeson and Brown and all inmate death reports since 2008.

A Nov. 19 email showed Ostuni also asked Armor for records such as “written documentation” kept by the company or given to staff on education, training, required state or federal certifications, and policy and procedure — including those used in an inmate health emergency.

Yesterday, Gonsalves fired back at Democrats in a letter to Abrahams she also sent to the state. She told the minority leader she “wrongfully assumed” he “took some initiative” and contacted the state to get its findings.

The GOP leader said she had asked the state and Armor for records, adding: “It has been and remains my intention to share this information with you . . . and encourage you to participate in this process fully.”

Commission of Correction spokeswoman Janine Kava said yesterday the agency hadn’t yet received either letter but planned to respond in writing after reviewing them.

Democrats also wrote that Gonsalves and Sposato have shown a “lack of transparency” in addressing the “extremely troubling situation” with jail medical care. Their letter included a transcript showing Sposato’s refusal to answer questions from Legislator Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) at an Oct. 8 budget hearing, three days after the state’s findings on Armor became public.

“Earlier this year in May we extended a contract for Armor. At the time, was there an investigation by a state commission?” Solages asked.

“I’m not commenting on Armor,” Sposato replied.

“You’re not commenting on that?” Solages said.

“No,” Sposato answered.

“OK. So you’re declining to answer the question?” Solages asked.

“I just told you I’m not commenting on Armor. If you have another question, I’ll answer. Not that one,” Sposato replied, before saying he also wouldn’t provide a state report on Armor.

“You can send a letter to the state requesting it. I don’t give that out,” he said.

In their letter, Democrats called it “extremely distressing to us that the top correction official . . . would simply stonewall a legislator on the topic of a state-mandated legislative inquiry.”

A spokesman for Sposato didn’t answer a request for comment Tuesday.

A spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano repeated past comments Tuesday by saying Armor’s contract couldn’t be canceled “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability as the allegations have not been substantiated to date.”

Latest Videos