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Laura Curran proposes Nassau contracting reform

Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, a Democrat who

Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, a Democrat who is running for Nassau County executive, unveiled proposals to reform Nassau's contracting process on Feb. 14, 2017. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran on Tuesday rolled out a multipronged plan to reform the county’s contracting system, which has been the focus of nearly two years’ worth of local and federal public corruption investigations.

At a news conference in the living room of her home in Baldwin, Curran, a Nassau County legislator, detailed nine proposals.

Most have already been proposed, either by the Democratic legislative minority, District Attorney Madeline Singas or County Executive Edward Mangano. They include:

  • Creation of an independent inspector general’s office to investigate contracts.
  • Strengthening vendor disclosures to include political ties.
  • Disclosing when companies submit unsolicited proposals to the county.
  • Naming the county officials who write each bid specification.
  • Fully digitizing the contract filing system.
  • Requiring the full 19-member legislature to vote on contracts of more than $1 million, rather than just the Rules Committee.

“I want Nassau County to be a true regional and national leader in good government,” Curran said, before adding, with a pause: “Please, don’t laugh.”

Nassau’s contracting system has been under scrutiny since spring 2015, when federal prosecutors charged then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre with crimes that included improperly influencing the awarding of a county contract to a firm that employed his son, Adam. Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted and are appealing.

Later in 2015, federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Mangano’s chief deputy, Rob Walker, over the awarding of a county contract to a political contributor.

Walker “has complied with all legal obligations and acted in an appropriate and transparent manner,” his attorney has said.

Last year, Mangano was indicted on federal charges including accepting bribes and kickbacks from a restaurateur in exchange for benefits including a county contract.

Mangano has pleaded not guilty.

As a result of the federal cases — and a 2015 report in which Singas called the contracting system a “recipe for corruption” — county leaders have strengthened vendor background checks and instituted disclosures related to lobbyists and political contributors. Mangano has also hired a procurement compliance director, who is helping digitize the contract review process, and an investigations commissioner.

Mangano, who has yet to say whether he will seek a third term, through a spokesman criticized Curran’s announcement.

“We hate to have facts get in the way of her campaign, but most of these proposals have already been adopted and the Commissioner of Investigations has the same powers and duties as an inspector general,” said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

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