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Long IslandPolitics

NIFA warns Nassau about contract start dates

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority added language on

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority added language on vendor payments to its contract approval forms this month. Above, NIFA members meet in Uniondale on June 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nassau’s financial control board is warning the county not to pay vendors for work done before contracts are approved, weighing in on a controversy that has caused a rift between Republican County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration and GOP county lawmakers.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority last week added language to its contract approval forms that explicitly states its guidelines on vendor payments. It says: “NIFA approves this contract/amendment, but no time charges shall be recognized or paid for services rendered prior to” the agreement’s final execution.

NIFA counsel Jeremy Wise said the board took action because Nassau had allowed work to begin on numerous pacts before they’d come before county legislators. The county this month identified 47 such contracts, some dating back eight years.

“We assumed they were following our guidelines,” Wise said in an interview Tuesday.

In an email Monday to the administration and legislative staff, Wise said: “Think of it this way: A store doesn’t need to post a sign to tell you not to shoplift, but many do so in an excess of caution. Think of this ‘added’ language as an excess of caution by NIFA.”

The county administration for years has allowed some vendors to start work without legislative approval, but the practice began generating consistent complaints from GOP lawmakers only in the last month.

At a Feb. 13 legislative meeting, Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) suggested that the administration “is just looking at us as a rubber stamp.”

Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who is mulling a run for county comptroller, asked Mangano to identify late contracts, prompting the list of 47.

Representatives for the legislature’s GOP majority didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But the majority agreed Monday to table a $1.1 million information technology maintenance pact after Democrats highlighted that its term began in January 2016.

“I don’t see how this contract would go forward,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), noting the change to NIFA forms.

Responding to the new NIFA language, county procurement compliance director Robert Cleary said Tuesday that the administration “is committed to submitting contracts timely and preventing retroactive contracts whenever possible.”

Mangano aides also note that many of the pacts that started before full approval were necessary to maintain state-mandated services before state funding came in.

But Cleary said the problem isn’t unique. New York City, where Cleary worked previously, reported more than 600 retroactive contracts in 2013, records show.

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