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Nassau tables $52.5M in contracts poised for automatic approval

Nassau County Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow)

Nassau County Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) attends a hearing in Mineola on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County's Legislative Rules Committee Monday tabled personal service contracts worth more than $50 million that would have been approved automatically without a vote if lawmakers had not acted on them.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) tabled the seven contracts for information technology services to stop the clock on a 45-day, county charter-imposed deadline for lawmakers to act on such agreements, her spokeswoman Cristina Brennan said.

Brennan said the contracts contain errors that need to be addressed before lawmakers can approve them. She said she didn't know the kind of errors but warned correcting them could change the contracts' total cost of $52.5 million.

The charter mandates that all personal service contracts are "deemed approved" if the Rules Committee does not act within 45 days of the Mangano administration submitting the legislation. Such contracts, which generally are for professional services, go through without a legislative vote and with no public discussion.

Records show the seven contracts were submitted by Republican County Executive Edward Mangano's administration on July 20. The Rules Committee, which has sole legislative authority to approve personal service contracts, is not scheduled to meet again until Sept. 9 -- 51 days after the county executive filed the agreements.

Tabling a contract is considered legislative action, which stops the clock. Newsday reported last week that a $200,000 contract for former state Sen. Michael Balboni, a Republican from East Williston, was automatically approved in 2013 under the little-known charter provision.

The story prompted Democratic lawmakers to file legislation to eliminate the automatic approval provision, which Gonsalves and the administration say is needed to prevent government business from backing up during vacation periods and legislative holidays.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Monday after the tabling: "We had identified these contracts as exceeding the 45-day rule if no action was taken. We would have asked for a special meeting in August to come back and do them if Norma didn't table them today."

Also Monday, Nassau lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal by Mangano to offer another round of early retirement incentives to members of the county's largest labor union.

The measure, which would offer full-time Civil Service Employees Association members a lump-sum payment of $1,000 for every year they worked for the county, is expected to save Nassau $12 million annually in salary benefits, according to estimates provided by Deputy County Executive for Finance Eric Naughton.

Mangano's proposal calls for Nassau to pay for the incentives out of its operating budget if fewer than 50 employees apply. If more than 50 volunteer by the Sept. 15 deadline, the county would borrow to pay the costs.

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta said he expects at least 100 of the union's 4,000 members to take the deal, which must be approved by the county's financial oversight board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

Laricchiuta said after the legislative meeting that he hoped Nassau would fill some of the vacancies since many departments are short-staffed after nearly 400 layoffs since 2011.

"You're getting rid of someone making $90,000 with full medical [coverage] and replacing them with someone making $24,000 and paying into their medical," Laricchiuta said.

The measure passed with no discussion. After the meeting, Gonsalves said she supported the proposal because previous rounds of retirement incentives were "historically successful" in keeping labor costs down.

Abrahams said Democrats supported the measure but would raise questions if the county seeks to pay for the incentive by borrowing after the September deadline for accepting the incentive.

The legislature also unanimously approved the appointment of Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray and Mineola Village Clerk Joseph R. Scalero to the Nassau Taxi and Limousine Commission.


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