Former state Sen. Jack Martins, the expected Republican nominee for Nassau County executive, announced his ethics reform proposals Tuesday, vowing to provide county watchdogs with more teeth in their investigations while increasing public disclosure from elected officials.
Standing in front of a statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt outside the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, Martins promised to introduce a sweeping anti-corruption package if elected in November.
“There must be a zero tolerance when it comes to the perception of corruption and actual corruption in government,” said Martins, a former Mineola mayor who served three terms in the State Senate. “Transparency is the key.”
Martins’ plan — which includes elements of reform proposals introduced by the three Democratic candidates for county executive — includes strengthening the authority of the county’s Ethics Board to conduct more through investigations of misconduct.
Martins would balance the five-member board with no more than two individuals from either party who would be appointed by the county executive, confirmed by the county legislature and serve five-year terms.
The board, he said, would have its own line in the county budget that could not be cut by elected officials.
The existing five-member Ethics Board is dominated by Republicans and has issued few public findings or reports in recent years.
Martins would also strengthen the powers of the county’s Commissioner of Investigations to serve as the investigatory arm of the Ethics Board and Nassau’s procurement director to ensure that contract-related conflicts are disclosed. Both positions would require confirmation by a majority of the county legislature.
Echoing calls from the three Democratic candidates, Martins called for details of all county contracts to be put online in a public database — a move that administration officials say is already underway.
But Martins, who is expected to be nominated Thursday by the Nassau Republican Committee, broke with Democratic legislators who have called for the hiring of an independent inspector general to oversee county contracts.
“I don’t believe that the answer is to place another layer of government on county government,” Martins said.
Martins also proposed a new Code of Ethics that would include more expansive financial disclosure requirements from elected officials and policymakers.
The changes also would include enhanced vetting and disclosure from officials who have full-time positions with entities that do business with the county or who simultaneously work with multiple government entities.
Hempstead Town Board member Edward Ambrosino, who had served as special counsel to Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, pleaded not guilty in late March to charges of income-tax evasion and wire fraud. At the time, Ambrosino was general counsel for Nassau’s Industrial Development Agency and Local Economic Assistance Corp.
Former North Hempstead Democratic Party Leader Gerard Terry is fighting state and federal tax evasion and fraud charges. Terry in 2015 held six public positions, including as a lawyer for the Democratic commissioner at the Nassau Board of Elections and attorney for North Hempstead’s board of zoning appeals. Terry has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Martins on Tuesday also repeated plans to change the county charter to allow indicted elected officials to be recalled from office through a public referendum.
Mangano, a Republican, is facing federal corruption charges in connection with his dealings with a Bethpage restaurateur. Mangano’s wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto also were charged in the case. All three have pleaded not guilty.
The three Democrats vying for the Democratic nomination are Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), who has the party’s support; County Comptroller George Maragos; and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
All three have released ethics reform proposals in recent weeks.
Curran on Tuesday also announced the endorsement of Eleanor’s Legacy, a group focused on electing women in New York to public office.
“Laura has been an outspoken champion for women’s rights and a model for the type of public servant we work to elect up and down the ballot,” said Brette McSweeney, executive director of Eleanor’s Legacy.