Nassau County officials have identified 47 contracts on which work has begun before legislative approval, with some dating back six to eight years and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The list was compiled by Nassau’s contract compliance officer Robert Cleary in response to complaints from the Republican majority on the county legislature’s Rules Committee and a letter from Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence).
In an unusual rift, GOP lawmakers had chided the Republican administration of County Executive Edward Mangano for looking upon them as a rubber stamp by asking them to approve contracts after work had started. In some cases, the work already was complete.
Under the county charter, the Rules Committee must approve all contracts and the legislature must approve all spending.
Officials say vendors work at their own risk if they start without an approved contract.
County officials say most of the older big-ticket contracts, primarily for public works projects, were approved at one point and now need the legislature to support extensions or amendments to the initial dollar amounts.
“Retroactive contracts happen everywhere,” said Cleary, who was hired from New York City by Mangano last April. “We will get a much better handle on it.” He said the list was “the first cut at understanding what the problem is.”
Cleary said there was no common denominator or timeline among the contracts that need approval.
But Kopel said the administration has boxed in the legislature because vendors will sue the county if lawmakers reject contracts after the administration allowed work to start.
“We can’t precipitously start saying no to everything,” Kopel said at Monday’s Rules committee meeting. “It would throw everything into chaos. But we do need to see genuine progress being made and that there is a genuine solution coming soon.”
Cleary said in an interview that it was too soon to say when a solution would be found. “It is a manageable problem. It will take some time to work out what our schedule will be,” Cleary said.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), said, “Unlike Legislator Kopel and the Republican majority who are talking a good game, we have consistently been opposing contracts that were not brought to the legislature in a timely fashion on the grounds that it makes legislative oversight meaningless.”
Among the contracts on the list is a 2009 agreement for a projected $1.252 million in design services on the Hempstead Maintenance Garage, for which $250,000 in work has been completed.
Work began in 2011 on three contracts for design work at the county’s sewage treatment plans with $2.9 million already billed for a total final cost of $3.3 million.
Details of past approved amounts were not included for any of the contracts on the list.