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Democrats press for more lobbying disclosure in Nassau

Nassau Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) during the Nassau

Nassau Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) during the Nassau County budget hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau legislative Democrats say new county rules requiring vendors to disclose their lobbyists do not go far enough, and they promise they will ask detailed questions about each proposed contract unless revisions are made.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) sent a letter early this week to Public Works Commissioner Shila Shah-Gavnoudias asking for more detailed disclosure requirements for the contracts that go before the county legislature's Rules Committee, beyond simply asking if a vendor used a lobbyist.

He proposed seven questions, including whether Nassau employees had any contact with vendors or their lobbyists regarding each contract, and whether any political party or elected official had reached out to them regarding a contract. He also wants vendors to disclose any political party posts they or family members hold.

"We want to take affirmative steps to improve the public's confidence in our county government," Abrahams wrote.

He said the Democratic minority would "ask each question on the record during committee meetings for each contract" if they aren't added to the current disclosure forms.

The Rules Committee recently approved the first contracts requiring vendors to disclose lobbying activity. None of the 30 agreements, totaling $36 million, claimed the use of lobbyists. The forms ask companies to "list all lobbyists whose services were utilized at any stage in this matter," and, if so, to describe the lobbying activity.

Republican County Executive Edward Mangano had mandated the new disclosures in an executive order he issued in May, after federal corruption charges were filed against state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam.

Prosecutors allege that Dean and Adam Skelos influenced the awarding of a $12 million county storm-water treatment contract to an Arizona company that hired Adam Skelos as a consultant. Lawmakers who approved the contract in 2013 said they were not aware Adam Skelos had lobbied Nassau County public works officials.

Both Dean and Adam Skelos have pleaded not guilty.

The legislature on Monday will consider a bill that makes Mangano's order on contract disclosures law and establishes a separate lobbyist registry. Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin didn't comment directly on Abrahams' letter, saying only that it's up to lawmakers to enact a policy via legislation.

"This is now a legislative prerogative," Nevin said this week.

Matt Fernando, a spokesman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), also did not address the Democrats' calls for more detailed contract disclosures. But he said in an emailed statement earlier this week that the bill -- as currently proposed -- already "creates an unprecedented level of transparency, more than [the] state or any of its municipalities."


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