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Nassau County implements new ethics rules

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran introduces a Vendor

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran introduces a Vendor Code of Ethics for Nassau County vendors on Wednesday in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Wednesday signed new rules for county vendors — including a ban on gifts to county procurement officials — aimed at stemming contracting abuses that were central to federal corruption cases involving prominent officials from Nassau.

Under the new Vendor Code of Ethics, county employees involved with contracting cannot accept gifts “of any kind” from county vendors, “no matter how small.”

Contractors also cannot discuss or offer jobs to county employees involved with procurement or to their family members.

“We’re throwing out the old rule book, rewriting the rules and in this case creating the rules because they never existed before,” Curran said at a news conference.

“For decades, countless county officials and vendors looked the other way, turning a blind eye to bad behavior that took our county down the slippery slope into corruption,” Curran said.

Administration officials said the new code was modeled after those used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority, which have large contract budgets.

“Any measure put in place to protect our taxpayer dollars is a welcome addition to Nassau County. We question, however, why the administration would use the MTA as a model for anything given the financial mess it has created,” said county legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).

Nassau awards about $1 billion in contracts a year — representing about a third of the county budget — to companies and nonprofit vendors for work it cannot complete using county staff.

Under the new rules, vendors will be required to certify they have read and accepted the terms of the ethics code and have distributed it to all subcontractors and suppliers.

Curran, a Democrat and former Nassau County legislator from Baldwin, ran on an anti-corruption platform in 2017 after her predecessor, former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, was indicted on federal charges of bribery and conspiracy.

In March, after a retrial, Mangano, 57, was convicted of federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

His wife, Linda, was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and two counts of lying to the FBI.

Prosecutors had alleged Edward Mangano took bribes from restaurateur Harendra Singh that included a “no-show” job for Linda Mangano.

The government claimed Edward Mangano repaid Singh by steering two county contracts to him in 2012 that together were worth more than $400,000.

The Manganos’ sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, were found guilty of eight counts of bribery, conspiracy and extortion at a retrial last July.

Federal prosecutors said Dean Skelos pressured companies to give jobs, fees and benefits to Adam, doing favors in Albany for the companies in return. Dean Skelos also intervened with Nassau County to help one company with a contract, prosecutors said.

The Skeloses are serving federal prison sentences separately.

Curran also announced a new online application for vendors to use to bid for county work. The new system is expected to be fully digital, allowing auditors to search for possible improprieties, Curran officials said.

Members of the public also will be able to access information about contractors on the county’s website.

County officials say the new system should streamline the bidding process and speed payments to vendors. Officials also said they expect it also to encourage smaller companies and nonprofits, and those owned by minorities, women and veterans, to seek county work, officials said.

Nassau Comptroller Jack Schnirman, a Democrat who took office in 2018, said the prior contracting system left Nassau “vulnerable to fraud and waste.”

He continued, “We’ve all seen the headlines and how many corruption scandals here in Nassau County ultimately came back to the contracting process.”

Highlights of Nassau County’s Vendor Code of Ethics:

  • No vendor may offer or give any gift, directly or indirectly, to a county employee.
  • No vendor may offer or give any gift to a family member of a county employee where such a gift is made because of the vendor’s relationship with the county employee.
  • Vendors are prohibited from offering or discussing an employment opportunity with a county employee or his or her family members if the vendor has a specific matter before the employee
  • The vendor will not permit a former county employee to appear or practice before any county agency either prior to awarding a contract or in the performance of the contracted work for a period of two years after the termination of the county employee’s service with the county.

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