Majority Republicans on the Nassau County Legislature on Monday defended reforms they’ve made to the county contracting system following Democrats’ calls for further action.
At a meeting of the legislature’s Rules Committee, GOP lawmakers described Nassau’s system for awarding contracts — the subject of several corruption cases over the past two years — as now among “the most transparent in the state.”
New disclosure requirements cover contractors’ political contributions and the vendors’ use of lobbyists.
County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, has hired an investigations commissioner to probe contract agreements and a procurement compliance director to streamline and digitize the county’s lengthy, paper-based approval system.
“We’re the most transparent in the state with our contracts,” said Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown). “I think we’re doing a damn good job. We’re putting a lot of reforms in.”
Democrats said more reforms were needed.
Last week, a Newsday analysis of county and state records found that, since a new disclosure law took effect last April 1, dozens of contractors have given nearly $200,000 in relevant contributions that did not appear on disclosure forms. Much of the money went to the political party committees with close ties to county leaders.
Democrats said the county should require contractors to disclose contributions from affiliated companies and those made to the party committees that are exempt from the current disclosure law.
They also are pressing for creation of an independent inspector general’s office — outside of the county executive’s control — to investigate contracts.
“I still think we really have a long way to go,” said Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove).
In recent months, lawmakers from both parties also have complained that the Mangano administration regularly submits contracts to the legislature on which work already has started.
“The truth of the matter is that this is a work in progress,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).
Fran Becker, Mangano’s legislative liaison, told lawmakers that procurement compliance director Robert Cleary would provide updates on the contracting system at the legislative meeting next week. Cleary is working toward creating an online approval process for contracts and a public, online database.