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Nassau lawmakers complain about late contracts

Nassau lawmakers on Monday aired their frustration with County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration over chronic delays in transmitting contracts for their approval.

They complained that work under many of the agreements already had started before the legislature had a chance to vote on them.

The Legislature’s Rules Committee, in a rare instance of agreement between the Republican majority and minority Democrats, chided aides to Mangano, a Republican, about the procurement system.

Committee members said that in many instances, contract start dates came months before legislative votes.

Vendors aren’t supposed to begin work until all county approvals are issued. But administration officials said some work has been allowed to start to ensure that state-mandated services aren’t interrupted.

“It’s almost as if the administration is just looking at us as a rubber stamp,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).

The remark came during debate on a contract amendment to continue providing largely state-funded transportation to developmentally disabled preschool children. The $396,000 amendment was dated to begin last Sept. 1.

The prior contract on the agenda — an $85,000 extension to a nonprofit that does domestic abuse counseling for the district attorney’s office — had a July 1, 2016 start date.

The transportation contract passed with a 4-3 party line vote, while the counseling pact was approved unanimously.

Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who has complained of the delays several times in recent months, threatened that the majority may soon reject such contracts.

“Our job is to review and give consent to contracts, if they make sense,” Kopel said. “When you come to us on something that’s already been performed, or even in process, we can’t do that job at all ... Then why are we here?”

County procurement compliance director Robert Cleary said the administration is streamlining and modernizing its contracting system. County officials are requiring more disclosure of vendors’ business history and campaign contributions after recent contracting scandals.

“We recognize that it’s a problem,” Cleary said of the delays.

He said the existing backlog means legislators for the time being will continue receiving contracts late.

“It’s going to take a very long time,” Cleary said.

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said the Mangano administration should only submit contracts for which work hasn’t started.

“It seems we’re going down this road where we’re always playing catch up,” Abrahams said.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said the administration’s inability to get contracts to lawmakers on time is unfair to vendors, because they can’t be paid until pacts are finalized.

“There’s a real danger in people not being paid if we don’t comply faster,” she said.

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