Nassau legislative Democrats say they will continue to block $275 million in capital borrowing until County Executive Edward Mangano gives his new commissioner of investigations a contract guaranteeing that she cannot be fired for political reasons.
On Monday, Mangano announced the hiring of Donna Myrill, who heads the Queens district attorney’s drug treatment court programs, as his $150,000-per-year investigations commissioner. County Attorney Carnell Foskey has held the position.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who has pressed for appointment of an independent inspector general to oversee Nassau’s contracting process, said he wants Mangano to give Myrill a contract to ensure her job security if she pursues cases involving the administration.
“The most important criteria we have is independence,” said Abrahams, who also wants Myrill’s appointment to be subject to legislative approval. “And how independent can you be if you can be fired at will?”
Deputy County Executive Ed Ward said Myrill would be provided investigators, attorneys and support staff, and will be able to pursue investigations without interference from the county executive. He said she would be terminated only for cause and not for political reasons.
Ward said there is no provision in the county charter that would allow the commissioner of investigations to have an employment contract or to make the position subject to legislative approval.
“The county executive fulfilled his charter responsibilities,” said Ward. “If the Democrats want to make it a contract position change the charter.”
Abrahams says the charter does not prohibit Mangano from giving Myrill an employment contract.
Myrill said she would handle investigations “very meticulously. It will be done very professionally and appropriately.”
For two months, Democrats have refused to provide the votes needed for $275 million in borrowing for projects including construction of new sewers in Sea Cliff, rebuilding Centennial Park in Roosevelt and purchasing bulletproof vests for police. Approval of bonding requires 13 votes; the GOP has 12 members and the Democrats have seven.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) has called the Democrats’ position a “political stunt” that puts “public safety at risk.”
Myrill will have subpoena power to probe suspicious contracts and launch investigations in any department, Ward said.
If Myrill finds potential criminal activity, she can forward cases to the Nassau County district attorney. Noncriminal policy violations would be forwarded to department heads for action, he said.
While administration aides say Mangano will not exert influence on cases, the county executive’s office will be briefed on the investigation commissioner’s work. “The commissioner of investigations is the eyes and ears of the county executive,” said Liz LoConsolo, Mangano’s counsel.
Myrill’s appointment is part of the reaction to contracting controversies that date to last spring, when federal corruption charges were filed against then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Part of the case involved Skelos’ efforts to influence the awarding of a county contract to a company that employed his son, Adam. Both were convicted in the case and are appealing.