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Lawmakers vote to extend Armor contract at Nassau County jail

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow on June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: FlyingDogPhotos.com / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau lawmakers on Monday voted to extend the contract of the private medical provider at the county jail and to give the company a substantial increase in compensation.

The legislature’s Republican-controlled Rules Committee voted 4-0, with the three Democrats abstaining, to give Armor Correctional Health Services $4.8 million to stay past its May 31 contract termination date, and remain at the jail until Aug. 31.

That constitutes a 66 percent increase in the monthly rate the company gets under its current $11.6 million-a-year pact.

Officials in the administration of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano defended the raise. They said the county couldn’t have a lapse in care and few providers would sign up for such a short period.

County Budget Director Roseann D’Alleva said Monday that the administration would look for savings in this year’s budget to offset the cost of the extension, as well as possible increased costs after Nassau University Medical Center takes over from Armor Sept. 1.

The administration, after finding no other qualified private providers, is negotiating with NUMC to provide inmate medical care. The hospital provided the service until 2011, when it decided not to bid and Mangano, a Republican, chose Armor to take over as a cost-saving measure.

Armor has filed a lawsuit that seeks to hold Nassau to the May 31 termination date. Attorneys for the county said the extension would be preferable to losing that case.

Armor has come under criticism for its performance at the East Meadow jail.

A state oversight agency found Armor provided inadequate care in connection with the deaths of at least five Nassau inmates since mid-2011.

Four federal lawsuits against Armor and the county involving inmate fatalities are pending. A federal jury awarded nearly $8 million in April to the family of a military veteran who committed suicide at the jail in 2012.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman also sued Armor last year for providing deficient inmate care. In a settlement, Armor was fined $350,000 and banned from bidding on contracts in New York for three years.

Also Monday, the full legislature unanimously approved a bill to bar individuals convicted of felonies involving public corruption from running for county office or holding seats on county-appointed boards or commissions.

The bill, sponsored by the GOP majority, disqualifies anyone convicted of bribery; embezzlement of public money; extortion or theft; perjury; fraud; tax evasion; or conspiracy to commit any of those crimes from holding public office.

Under state law, elected officials already must give up their seats upon a felony conviction. But Republican lawmakers argue that their bill closes a loophole in which felons, upon completing their parole, can petition the courts for a waiver that would allow them to run again.

Though he supported the felons bill, Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) criticized the measure as insufficient to prevent malfeasance.

At a news conference Monday, minority Democrats introduced legislation they said would strengthen prevention by reconfiguring the county Ethics Board, which investigates complaints of ethical misconduct by county employees. The existing five-member board is comprised of appointees of Mangano and County Attorney Carnell Foskey, a Mangano appointee.

The Democratic legislation would allow the county executive to appoint only two members of the board, one of whom would be suggested by local labor unions. The presiding officer of the legislature, the minority leader and the county comptroller would make the other appointments.

GOP lawmakers said they would review the bill.

With Robert Brodsky

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