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Nassau lawmakers approve study of disparities in minority contracting

A Nassau legislative committee on Monday approved a nearly $500,000 contract for a consulting firm to study how to increase the number of minority- and women-owned businesses that get county contracts.

Mason Tillman & Associates, based in Oakland, California, will work with the county's Office of Minority Affairs to collect data and review county laws and policies involving vendor contracts, according to an agreement passed unanimously in the county legislature's Rules Committee.

The firm will work with Nassau and Suffolk counties for two years with the option to extend the agreement for another year. A final report is expected by the first quarter of 2022, said Lionel Chitty, executive director of Nassau County's Office of Minority Affairs.

The contract with Mason Tillman is expected to develop goals for boosting Nassau's use of companies owned by minorities, women, veterans and other underrepresented groups.

Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence), ranking member of the Minority Affairs Committee, said he and other legislative Democrats "advocated strongly for a disparity study because it will provide regional decision-makers with the data they need to implement policies that promote fair access to procurement opportunities for minority and women-owned business enterprises."

The Mason Tillman contract, which Nassau County Executive Laura Curran backs, must be approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board. Contracts are only required to pass the 7-member Rules committee.

Mason Tillman & Associates was selected after the county received five bids in response to a request for proposals in 2019. Suffolk's contract with the firm also is worth $500,000. Officials say the shared services arrangement will save each county about $100,000.

Earlier this month, Newsday reported less than 7% of nearly $2 billion spent on a major share of Nassau's contracts went to minority- and women-owned firms from 2014 through 2019.

Curran, a Democrat who is up for reelection in November, promised during her 2017 campaign to bring changes and transparency to the county's vendor selection process after predecessor, Edward Mangano was indicted on a charge of receiving "bribes and kickbacks" from business owner Harendra Singh, a major county vendor.

Mangano, a Republican, was convicted in 2019 of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery; federal program bribery; conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud; honest services wire fraud; conspiracy to obstruct justice.

"We’ve introduced much-needed transparency, fairness, and inclusion to the County contracting processes and I am proud of the significant progress my Administration has made thus far," Curran said in a statement Monday.

"As we work to revive our local economy, this collaborative and cost effective study will help us learn how we can do even better and ensure minority, women, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses are positioned to thrive on Long Island and participate in County contracting," Curran said.

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