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Democrats urge more oversight of Nassau emergency contracts

Delia M. Deriggi Whitton, Nassau County legislator, is

Delia M. Deriggi Whitton, Nassau County legislator, is shown in this 2013 file photo. Credit: James Escher

Nassau Democrats Tuesday called on County Executive Edward Mangano to sign an executive order creating a bipartisan panel that would sign off on all emergency contracts of more than $5,000.

The county charter requires the legislature to approve individual contracts of more than $25,000 and all spending above $100,000 annually to a single vendor. Emergency purchases above $100,000 also must be ratified by the county legislature, although county officials say the agreements do not need legislative approval if the governor has declared a state of emergency.

Newsday reported in June that the county paid a company owned by Harendra Singh, a politically connected restaurateur, nearly $240,000 for catering after superstorm Sandy through no-bid "emergency purchase orders" that received no legislative approval.

The review panel proposed by Democrats would consist of two Republicans appointed by the legislative presiding officer and two Democrats selected by the minority leader.

One panel member from each party caucus would be required to approve or reject contracts and purchase orders within 48 hours of the spending request.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said the panel would ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely during an emergency.

"We don't want to be unreasonable, but we do want to be careful," she said. "It can't just be a free-for-all. There needs to be checks and balances."

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) called the proposal "pure politicking." She noted that emergency contracting rules are outlined in the charter and overseen by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county's finances.

A Mangano spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.Singh is facing federal charges of bribery and tax evasion unrelated to the storm contract. He has pleaded not guilty.

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