The Nassau Interim Finance Authority passed a resolution Friday calling on County Executive Edward Mangano to hire an independent commissioner of investigations and a director of procurement compliance to oversee the county’s scandal-plagued contracting process.
NIFA, a state oversight board in control of the county’s finances, envisions the commissioner of investigations holding the same authority as the state inspector general, including subpoena powers. But the board stopped short of calling for the creation of a new inspector general title in Nassau — a move recommended by District Attorney Madeline Singas and legislative Democrats.
“There is a lack of confidence and integrity in the contracting process,” said Adam Barsky, the new NIFA chairman, who ran his first meeting Friday. “We need a higher degree of confidence in the process.”
County Attorney Carnell Foskey, a Mangano appointee, currently doubles as the commissioner of investigations. Faced with criticism about Foskey’s independence, Mangano last month agreed to hire a new commissioner of investigations.
The procurement director, a position recommended by a panel Mangano formed last year in the wake of several contracting scandals, would help create a public database so residents can track the agreements.
The NIFA resolution says the new hires should be given employment contracts to run concurrently with Mangano’s term, which ends in 2017; be guaranteed independence from the administration; and be provided staff and budgets sufficient “to fulfill their responsibilities.”
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the administration is “currently conducting an interview process to fill both positions.”
The resolution also claims that changes to Nassau’s contracting process have been “slow and largely ineffective.”
In a letter to Barsky on Friday, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she was “disappointed by the remarkably partisan tone” of the resolution, citing new disclosure requirements for lobbyists and vendors and a new law lowering the threshold for legislative review of contracts from $25,000 to $1,000.
“Such statements undermine what little confidence we have that the NIFA board is capable of acquitting itself in a professional and nonpartisan manner,” Gonsalves wrote.
In January, NIFA passed a resolution that would require the county to provide it with information about vendors’ political contributions, incorporation dates, whether they were the lowest bidder and any relationships between the contractor and county officials.
On Friday, the board voted to suspend implementation of those changes until May 31, noting that the new hires could mitigate the need for some of the provisions. NIFA has the authority to approve or reject contracts exceeding $50,000.
Nassau’s procurement process has been under scrutiny since former Stater Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted in December in a federal corruption case involving a county stormwater-treatment contract that went to a firm employing his son.
Singas said she still wants Nassau to hire an inspector general but called the resolution “a powerful reminder that we need independence and transparency in the county’s contracting process.”
Legislative Democrats, who are blocking $275 million for capital projects until Republicans create the inspector general post, said it’s too soon to know if they will drop their stance.
Legis. Delia De Riggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said she wants to ensure the new commissioner of investigations is “selected in a bipartisan manner, has the proper qualifications to do the job and can function as a truly independent watchdog.”
The meeting was the last for NIFA board member Adam Haber, a Democrat who is resigning to run for the State Senate in Nassau’s 7th District. The seat will be vacant in November as the incumbent, Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), runs for Congress.