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$24,680 Nassau County contract for orchestra vanishes

Conductor Dean Karahalis on stage. Parks officials came

Conductor Dean Karahalis on stage. Parks officials came to the legislature for months-after-the-fact approval to pay $24,680 to a winter concert performer, explaining the delay by saying the entire agreement had "disappeared" before the parties could sign off on it in December. Photo Credit: handout

Nassau’s contracting process has been called antiquated and even “a recipe for corruption,” but this week a new indignity arose.

An agreement had vanished.

The County Legislature’s Rules Committee on Monday approved a $24,680 contract to secure a local pops orchestra’s performance at a free Parks Department concert — six months after the event took place.

Dean Karahalis & the Concert Pops headlined Eisenhower Park’s “Holiday Spectacular” on Nov. 29, but the county still hasn’t executed the contract or paid the band.

County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration, which has responded to contracting controversies by instituting disclosure measures and hiring new oversight staff, tried to explain the lengthy delay.

“The file disappeared,” said deputy county attorney Dennis McDermott. “Despite many diligent efforts by parks and the county executive’s office, the file has never shown up.”

“You lost me — not only the contract,” replied Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence). “What happened here?”

The contract, with a term of Oct. 15 through Nov. 29, was signed off on by parks officials, the administration’s budget office and county attorney before the end of November.

Karahalis’ contract went to the county comptroller’s office on Nov. 30. The office signed off on Dec. 29 and sent it to Mangano’s office for final execution, which never happened.

“From that moment on, it disappeared,” McDermott said.

The agreement presented to lawmakers this week had been reconstituted, with “Duplicate for lost original” handwritten across the top.

The contract did not at first need legislative approval, because the amount was just under the legislature’s $25,000 threshold for voting on county contracts.

In March, after Newsday reports about the many pacts issued to politically connected vendors for amounts just below the approval threshold, officials agreed to have lawmakers vote on everything exceeding $1,000.

Karahalis, a Locust Valley resident who regularly plays county concerts, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Mangano’s office also didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas last year called the county contract system “a recipe for corruption” because it is largely paper-based and doesn’t allow easy cross-checking for potential conflicts of interest. Several agreements have become the focus of criminal investigations.

Mangano last month announced the hiring of a new investigations commissioner with the authority to probe contracts, and a director of procurement compliance to ensure that all pacts follow approval guidelines.

“These things have to come to us in a timely fashion or they’re not going to get through,” Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said of parks concerts and promotions contracts. “There’s no reason.”

“This is an unusual situation,” McDermott replied.

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