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Kevan Abrahams calls for reform as Nassau swears in legislators

Among the 19 Nassau legislators sworn in on

Among the 19 Nassau legislators sworn in on Monday was Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, here on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The 19 members of the Nassau County Legislature were sworn into office Monday, with majority Republicans pledging bipartisan cooperation but minority Democrats continuing to call for increased transparency.

Lawmakers took the oath for the 11th county legislative session before a standing-room-only crowd in the legislature’s chambers in Mineola.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) swore in Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), along with the other 11 Republican legislators. Later, Gonsalves was formally re-elected to her leadership post by a 12-6 party line vote, with one Democrat absent.

Gonsalves called on lawmakers to increase their community outreach and encouraged state and federal officials to secure funding to build an ocean outfall pipe at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment plant.

“We are where we are today because our residents entrusted us to represent them,” said Gonsalves. “Their best interests are a common goal we all share. And we must work together toward that purpose.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) swore in Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and the caucus’ six other Democrats.

Abrahams, who also retained his post, urged the legislature to make proceedings more accessible to the public by holding meetings at night and in communities throughout the county, while also extending the amount of time set aside for public comment.

He also repeated past calls to reform Nassau procurement and campaign finance rules.

The county’s contracting system came under scrutiny in 2015 after former state Sen. Dean Skelos was charged in a federal public corruption case that involved a $12 million county contract with a company that had employed his son, Adam Skelos. Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted last month of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

“We have seen the loss of the people’s trust,” said Abrahams. “I will not say all hope is lost, but I will say we are teetering on the brink of all hope being lost in terms of restoring the faith in our elected officials.”

When the legislature formally set their rules of procedure Monday, Abrahams pressed for changes including additional legislative approval steps for contracts.

Majority Republicans declined to take up any of the changes, but Gonsalves pledged to “continue the dialogue,” particularly when it comes to scheduling night meetings that would allow for more public attendance.

“It’s not a closed issue,” she said.

The newly sworn-in legislature is largely identical to the one that came before it. The only new member is William Gaylor III (R-Rockville Centre), who replaced the retired Francis Becker in the Sixth District.

Among those also in attendance at the ceremonial swearing-in were Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, former County Executive Thomas Gulotta, District Attorney Madeline Singas, who will be sworn-in this week for her first elected term, Comptroller George Maragos and former Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. She had run unsuccessfully for county district attorney, and did not seek re-election.

With Paul LaRocco

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