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Nassau Comptroller George Maragos proposes anti-corruption reforms

George Maragos, Democratic candidate for Nassau County executive,

George Maragos, Democratic candidate for Nassau County executive, rolls out his plan to deal with corruption, term limits and election reform at a news conference in Mineola on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, a Democratic candidate for county executive, rolled out his anti-corruption reform plan Wednesday, including proposed bans on political contributions from county vendors and publicly financing campaigns.

Maragos says his reforms would strip the money out of politics and provide independent oversight of county contracts at a time when a number of elected officials in Nassau have been indicted on public corruption charges.

“A deep-rooted pay-to-play culture exists that has not only diminished public trust in government but has also betrayed and diminished our election process,” said Maragos at a news conference in Mineola surrounded by supporters and employees from the comptroller’s office. “It is time to root out corruption in Nassau County.”

Maragos, who changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last year to run for county executive, would ban political contributions from all county vendors, including from officers and family members of related limited liability companies.

He would also make major reforms to the county’s Board of Elections, which is currently run by a Democrat and Republican commissioner, each with their own staff of largely political patronage employees.

Maragos would allow party leaders to continue nominating election commissioners — potentially expanding the board’s leadership to five commissioners who would now require approval by the legislature — but combine their staffs and convert the positions into civil service jobs.

Newsday reported last year that Nassau’s Board of Elections has added 32 full-time positions since 2011 — a 25 percent increase — while the county’s overall number of employees dropped by more than 1,000, about 12 percent.

The Board of Election’s $15 million salary budget, Maragos said, would be cut nearly in half, with the savings used to fund public election financing. Maragos said he would enact reforms similar to New York City’s public financing program, which matches small-dollar contributions at a $6 to $1 rate for contributions up to $175.

The Board of Elections and campaign finance plans would require approval of the state legislature, while the rest of his agenda could be enacted through executive order or by the legislature.

Maragos said he would also impose a limit of two terms for countywide office holders and four terms for legislators; consolidate the county’s procurement compliance and purchasing director positions; and replace Nassau’s commissioner of investigations with an independent inspector general for contracting — an idea pushed by Democratic lawmakers for years.

The two other Democratic candidates for Nassau County executive, Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), have each introduced campaign financing and anti-corruption proposals.

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