Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas on Tuesday called County Executive Edward Mangano’s hiring of a contract compliance chief under his administration “woefully inadequate” to fix a system she said is prone to abuse.
Mangano’s office on Monday announced the appointment of Joseph LaRussa, a private-sector procurement specialist, as the new $120,000-a-year director of procurement compliance. LaRussa, 53, of Hauppauge, answered a public job posting and has no political or personal ties to Mangano, a Republican, aides said.
His duties will include checking for irregularities at each step of the contract approval process and creating a publicly accessible contract database.
But even before LaRussa begins work, Singas, a Democrat, criticized Mangano and Republican county legislators for not supporting the creation of a separate inspector general’s office — something she and Democratic lawmakers recommended last year following several contracting scandals.
That independent office would have subpoena power and be led by someone selected by a bipartisan panel and confirmed by a supermajority of county legislators.
LaRussa was selected by a panel of Mangano appointees and will report to the administration. His hire isn’t subject to legislative approval.
“It’s woefully inadequate. We called for significant change and significant independence,” Singas said. “And yet all we got is another department head.”
Of LaRussa, she said: “He might be very well-credentialed and very good at his job, but it’s the appearance.”
Deputy County Executive Ed Ward responded by noting that unless changed by county lawmakers, the inspector general position “is embodied in” the commissioner of investigations, which Mangano several years ago folded into the county attorney’s duties.
A panel Mangano appointed last year to review the county contracting system, led by former Nasdaq chairman Frank Zarb, recommended a procurement compliance director.
“This position, recommended by the Zarb panel, creates a single person to monitor the contract process and to be available to the legislature to address any and all questions regarding the process of each contract,” Ward said.
Zarb’s panel also backed separating the investigations commissioner from the county attorney and hiring an internal auditor to work with a procurement compliance director. Ward said that remained “under consideration.”