The Nassau Legislature unanimously approved legislation Monday creating an inspector general to investigate waste and fraud in county programs, culminating a nearly two-year effort by Democratic lawmakers to increase scrutiny of county contracts.
“This is a good day that we truly believe will add transparency and oversight to this process,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).
Lawmakers last week made changes to the bill to require a supermajority of 13 votes to appoint, reappoint or fire the inspector general. An original version of the bill would have allowed Republicans to select or terminate the inspector general with a simple majority vote.
“This individual will be a bipartisan appointment,” said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who is retiring and ran her final meeting Monday after serving 20 years in the legislature.
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 IG will serve a four-year term and have a budget, staff, and office space.
For nearly two years, Democrats have blocked approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital borrowing to force the GOP to hire an inspector general. Abrahams said Democrats will now begin approving the bonding.
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.
Corruption also was a central issue of the county executive race won by Democrat Laura Curran following the arrests of several Nassau elected officials, including County Executive Edward Mangano.
Mangano who faces federal charges, including bribery and extortion, has pleaded not guilty.
The Legislature on Monday also:
- Approved an agreement with state Department of Environmental Conservation to move forward with a project that would divert treated effluent from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant through an abandoned aqueduct along Sunrise Highway to an outfall pipe near the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant. The county will pay a penalty of $45,680 to resolve past environmental violations and fund a $411,120 environmental benefit project as part of the agreement.
- Approved a $75 administrative fee on scofflaws who haven’t paid their traffic and parking tickets. Passage of the measure, which is expected to raise $1 million, was a component of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s agreement this month to pass the county’s 2018 budget.
- Passed a bill limiting the county executive’s ability to appoint acting department heads or members of county boards or commissions for periods of longer than six months.