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Nassau DA Madeline Singas calls for new restrictions on taxpayer-paid mailings

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas speaks

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas speaks in Great Neck, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas has called on state legislative leaders to adopt new restrictions on taxpayer-paid mailings, citing recent fliers by state assemblymen “that are wholly indistinguishable from political campaign mailings.”

Singas, a Democrat, specifically complained about government-paid pieces by two upstate Assembly members — a Republican and a Democrat — and a “vainglorious” flier from Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue). She included copies in her letter emailed to state officials Monday night.

“These mailings undermine the Democratic process by perpetuating incumbency from the public fisc [state money] and constitute an unethical and constitutionally dubious waste of taxpayer funds,” Singas wrote.

She also sent a copy to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, urging an investigation.

Murray said his mailing cited by Singas was not about campaigning but about reforming Albany.

“I would say that is right on target with what the voters have been telling us we should be doing,” Murray said Tuesday. “This is telling the voters we hear you. We are trying to make the reforms to clean up Albany.”

The government postcard touted Murray’s plan for public officers’ accountability, including eight-year term limits for legislative leaders and requiring public officials convicted of felonies to forfeit their pensions.

“Ironically, some lawmakers have chosen to have taxpayers foot the bill for political campaign-style mailings lauding their support for ethics reform,” Singas wrote.

Murray responded, “We think the voters should know who is voting and fighting for these reforms.” Until the Assembly can perfect emailing all constituents, he said, “that mail piece is exactly how we should be communicating with voters.”

In her letter, Singas suggested a series of reforms based on Congressional franking rules that include a moratorium on all “taxpayer-funded mass communication” within 90 days of an election.

She and her predecessor, former District Attorney Kathleen Rice, in the past called on Nassau officials to adopt similar restrictions but the Republican-controlled county legislature and county ethics board never acted on their suggestions.

“With New York government scarred by a shameful parade of scandals, ethics reform is once again at the forefront of this year’s legislative session and I call on the Senate and Assembly to include real restrictions on these taxpayer-funded mailings that serve no legitimate governmental purpose,” Singas wrote.

Assembly leaders did not immediately return calls for comment.

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