Nassau Democratic lawmakers have asked County Executive Laura Curran to review or rebid all proposed contracts approved by former Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, a Republican who is under federal indictment on charges of obstruction of justice.
Walker’s name also has been mentioned in testimony in the federal corruption trial of his former boss Edward Mangano, Curran’s Republican predecessor. Jury deliberations began Friday.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) made the request in a letter to Curran, a Democrat, after Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) complained publicly two weeks ago that lawmakers were still being asked to approve contracts that were signed by Walker or approved in his name.
Democrats want to ensure the administration does “due diligence, to make sure there was nothing inappropriate when it comes to these contracts,” Abrahams said in an interview.
Abrahams’ letter comes as Curran is expected to announce changes to Nassau’s contracting process. The procedures came under scrutiny three years ago when former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted of federal corruption charges related to the awarding of a Nassau County public works contract.
The convictions were overturned on appeal and the Skeloses are awaiting retrial.
“We completely agree with Minority Leader Abrahams and his caucus and share their concerns,” said Curran spokesman Michael Martino. Martino said Curran “will soon unveil historic changes to the county’s contracting process.”
Walker in February pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators, who charged him with returning a $5,000 payment he had received from a county contractor and then lying about it. Walker has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.
Walker also testified during the Skelos trial that he was under federal investigation for allegedly steering county contracts to political campaign contributors. He denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, jurors in Central Islip are deliberating Mangano’s guilt or innocence after a 10-week federal trial in which the former county executive was accused of taking bribes and favors from restaurateur Harendra Singh in return for county contracts. Mangano has denied the charges.
Walker’s attorney Brian Griffin said after reviewing Abrahams letter, “Aside from the fact that Mr. Walker has never been charged with any contract impropriety, every contract that Mr. Walker was involved with went through the scrutiny of the Nassau County procurement process as well as full legislative approval.”
Griffin continued: “As the Nassau District Attorney’s office and the federal government have poured through these contracts, we welcome the legislature to do the same. The results will not change.”
DeRiggi-Whitton had asked during the legislature’s Rules Committee meeting on May 7 if the Curran administration was reviewing proposed contracts that had been signed by Walker but are still awaiting legislative approval.
Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) immediately warned DeRiggi-Whitton that her statements “better be right” or she would be subject to slander accusations. Walker’s mother, Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville) was in the legislative chambers.
DeRiggi-Whitton persisted in demanding a review. Otherwise, she said in an interview last week, “We are being complicit.”
Abrahams noted in his letter that he had called for the county to hold off approval of contracts for D & B Engineering and HAKS Engineers after the companies were indicted on a charge of bribery in New York City.
Abrahams said the same policy should apply to contracts Walker was involved with.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” Abrahams said in an interview. “However it would be imprudent not to notice the fact that he has been indicted.”
Officials of D & B and HAKS denied “knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief” about the truth of the allegations.
Democrats are asking that all Walker contracts be rebid or that a senior member of the Curran administration provide written certification that he or she had reviewed the agreement, investigated the award process and found no impropriety or irregularity.
Nicolello said in a statement that majority Republicans will do their “due diligence and scrutinize every contract that the Administration presents for approval.”
The GOP “will support rebidding, certifications or whatever else is in the interest of our taxpayers,” Nicolello said. “It is now 5 months into the year and it is time for the Administration and the Minority caucus to work out their differences and get this resolved.”
In the Mangano trial, a witness testified that Walker was among Nassau officials who pushed the county purchasing department to award a bread and rolls contract to a bakery owned by Singh’s wife, rather than a longtime vendor who had the lowest bid.
Former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and Mangano’s wife, Linda, also are on trial. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.