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Jack Martins, Laura Curran take aim at nepotism in Nassau

Nassau County Executive candidates Jack Martins and Laura

Nassau County Executive candidates Jack Martins and Laura Curran during a forum at Adelphi University on Oct. 15, 2017. Credit: Uli Seit

Nassau County executive candidates put nepotism in their sights Monday, as Democrat Laura Curran pledged not to hire politicians’ relatives and Republican Jack Martins touted a plan for stronger vetting of hires to prevent the practice.

Curran and Martins addressed the issue after a Newsday report Sunday showed that more than 100 current or former elected officeholders, high-level appointees and political club leaders in Nassau — Republican and Democrat — have had at least one family member working in local government since 2015.

The analysis said nearly 30 of the officials had at least two relatives on a county or town payroll, and several had three or four. The relatives earn annual salaries totaling $8 million.

“Think about how many important jobs are being handed out with little or no consideration of truly qualified candidates,” Curran, a Nassau County legislator, said at a news conference outside her Baldwin home.

She then signed a large cardboard reproduction of a campaign pledge: “As county executive, I will not hire any of my family members, or the family members of any elected officials or political leaders.”

Martins, a former state senator from Old Westbury, called out Curran for not criticizing nepotism forcefully before announcing her county executive run in January. Curran has been a legislator since 2014.

“Laura Curran talks about Nassau County needing a ‘fresh start.’ Perhaps she should define the word ‘fresh,’ because she is the only candidate in this race who has ever served in county politics,” Martins spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said in statement.

Martins’ campaign also highlighted a plan for “enhanced vetting” of county hires. That would include the county ethics board and commissioner of investigations reviewing appointments for possible violations of anti-nepotism laws.

Newsday noted that many top county officials’ family members have jobs with different municipalities or public agencies controlled by the same political party, meaning they aren’t covered by existing anti-nepotism laws.

“Unfortunately, it’s a bipartisan problem,” Curran said.

Curran was joined by Democratic county comptroller candidate Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager, who said he’d conduct an audit that would seek to identify officials who supervise relatives in violation of county law.

“This problem wasn’t of our creation, but the next administration must tackle it,” he said.

Republican comptroller candidate Steve Labriola, an aide to County Executive Edward Mangano, repeated a pledge to ensure officials don’t supervise relatives. Labriola’s wife and daughter hold county jobs that are outside his supervision.

“I am glad Mr. Schnirman has once again copied one of my policies,” said Labriola.

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