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Hiring, firing of Nassau IG will require Democratic votes

Revised legislation will require a supermajority of the Nassau County Legislature to hire or fire a new inspector general.

Republican leaders of the Nassau County Legislature have agreed to Democrats’ request that the hiring or termination of a new inspector general requires a vote of a supermajority of county lawmakers.

The original bill, approved last week by the GOP-controlled Rules Committee, would have allowed Republicans to select or terminate the inspector general with a simple majority vote.

In a rare instance of bipartisan cooperation, GOP lawmakers this week submitted an amended bill requiring 13 votes to appoint, reappoint or fire the inspector general. Republicans will hold an 11-8 majority in January.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said a supermajority will “ensure that there is a bipartisan appointment with the agreement of both Democrats and Republicans.”

Gonsalves said the bill also would end the Democrats’ yearslong effort to block capital borrowing to force the GOP to agree to hire an inspector general. “This gridlock must not continue into the new year,” she said.

Democrats are expected to vote for the inspector general bill when it goes to the full legislature on Monday and to support future borrowing requests.

“This is the culmination of a more than two-year taxpayer protection advocacy fight,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

County Executive-elect Laura Curran, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1, will not play a role in selecting the IG.

The bill gives the inspector general wide authority to investigate waste and fraud in county programs and contracts and the power to subpoena witnesses and records. The county executive also must alert the inspector general to the “possible mismanagement” of contracts exceeding $5,000.

Lawmakers will create a new committee to supervise the inspector general but the IG will have no authority to investigate legislative operations.

The inspector general will serve a four-year term and must have at least 10 years experience in law enforcement or as a prosecutor, judge, certified public accountant or auditor.

The appointee, who will have a staff and a budget, cannot have been an officer in a political party for the past decade or have worked for the county in the previous two years.

Individuals found guilty of failing to comply with the inspector general could face one year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Nassau contracting has come under scrutiny since 2015 when former state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) was convicted of federal corruption charges that included influencing the awarding of a county contract to a firm that employed his son, Adam. The Skeloses’ convictions were overturned but prosecutors plan to retry them.

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