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Long IslandPolitics

State legislators call for measures to end corruption

A nonprofit leader and Democratic state legislators discuss

A nonprofit leader and Democratic state legislators discuss ethics proposals outside Oyster Bay Town Hall on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Credit: Newsday / David Olson

Three Democratic state legislators Tuesday urged their colleagues to support several initiatives that they said would help end corruption on Long Island and statewide, and “ensure good, open, honest government.”

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Christine Pellegrino (D-West Islip), joined by the head of the good-government group Common Cause New York, spoke outside the Town of Oyster Bay’s Town Hall South in Massapequa.

One of the bills, sponsored by Brooks and Lavine, would authorize state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to appoint an independent state monitor to oversee the finances and operations of Oyster Bay, which is deeply in debt.

“By establishing an independent state monitor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Town of Oyster Bay, taxpayers will get the transparency and accountability that they desperately deserve from their elected officials, ensuring a fiscally healthy and stable government,” Brooks said.

Town spokesman Brian Nevin said in a statement that the news conference was “a cheap political stunt to grab headlines as state lawmakers are on break until January. Town finances are on the right track as Supervisor [Joseph] Saladino has cut expenses, reduced the workforce and will not increase property taxes.”

Nevin touted ethics reforms Saladino introduced earlier this month and said the supervisor “welcomes additional ethics reforms at the state level.” On Friday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino unveiled his own ethics proposals. Both men are Republicans.

Brooks asserted during the event that “this is not a political press conference. This is not about what Republicans or Democrats do or vice versa. This is about a solution.”

The Oyster Bay oversight bill did not make it out of the legislature in the recent session, nor did the other two bills discussed at the news conference: one to bar the use of campaign funds to defend a candidate or elected official from federal criminal charges, the other to close a loophole that bypasses limits on financial contributions to candidates and allows large corporate election donations.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said that across New York State, a number of local ethics policies have been either not implemented or not enforced.

One of the criticisms of a key Saladino ethics proposal — appointing an inspector general — is that it is still unclear how independent the position would be. Lerner said she is not familiar with the details of Saladino’s proposals, but, she said: “The independence of ethics oversight is key. That’s what makes ethics oversight effective.”

Brooks said it’s not up to him to determine how sincere the Oyster Bay proposal is.

“The people of the Town of Oyster Bay will decide whether there has been real change or not when they go to the ballot box in November,” he said.


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