Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, has yet to reach out to the county legislature’s Republican leader, Richard Nicolello, who publicly berated her administration for misleading GOP lawmakers and warned they would be skeptical about her future requests.
In February, five Republican lawmakers reluctantly joined with the seven Democrats on the county legislature to approve $23 million in borrowing — half the $45 million requested by Curran. Borrowing requires the votes of 13 of the 19 members.
Curran’s officials repeatedly had told lawmakers that Nassau’s finances were so strained that the county had to borrow $45 million to pay a court award to two men exonerated of a 1984 rape and murder after they spent years in prison.
The previous administration of Republican Edward Mangano last year had asked to borrow for the award — but Democrats, including Curran, then a legislator, blocked the plan. Mangano then set aside $45 million in a segregated bank account to pay the judgment.
At a hearing Tuesday, Nicolello, the legislature’s presiding officer, grilled Mark Page, Curran’s deputy county executive for finance, about why the county had not moved forward to borrow the money if finances were so tight.
When Page said the county had found enough money to pay the award and probably would use the $23 million for other expenses before the end of the year, Nicolello, a generally even-tempered lawyer, scolded him for making the decision “unilaterally” without telling lawmakers.
“By this action, you have eroded the good faith that existed on Jan. 1 when we started. You have eroded the good faith of the five members on this side of the aisle [who voted to authorize borrowing]. I can’t say in as strong words as I possibly can, you have eroded the good faith that existed,” Nicolello said.
He warned the legislature could withdraw the borrowing authorization and will be skeptical of future Curran requests.
“I’m certainly concerned about how this administration is going about its business from the standpoint of transparency,” Nicolello said.
Page responded, “I think it’s unfortunate that you see it that way.”
Nicolello has not heard from Curran since then, spokesman Frank Moroney said Thursday afternoon.
Curran also did not notify Nicolello that she was having a tree-planting ceremony Thursday afternoon on the front lawn of the executive and legislative building in Mineola even though Nicolello’s predecessor — former presiding officer Norma Gonalves, an East Meadow Republican, was invited to the event.
Curran spokesman Michael Martino said the county executive “is looking forward to having a conversation with the presiding officer.”
Martino said the administration’s next goal is to seek the approval of Nassau’s financial control board for a “comprehensive financial plan to address the structural deficit.”
Borrowing for the court award “will certainly be a part of that plan,” said Martino.