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Nassau executive candidate Laura Curran proposes ‘transparency agenda’

Nassau Legis. Laura Curran, the Democratic Party's pick

Nassau Legis. Laura Curran, the Democratic Party's pick for county executive, broke ranks with Democratic lawmakers last October to vote with the GOP majority to approve $50 million in borrowing for capital projects. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran on Tuesday announced a plan to widen the reach of county financial disclosure forms and make other records easier to access and more user-friendly.

Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, dubbed the set of proposals her “era of transparency agenda” as she detailed them at a news conference in the living room of her home — which has become her campaign’s de facto headquarters.

“We need to shine a light on information that is all too often hidden from taxpayers,” Curran said. “Too much of government is conducted in the dark.”

As has been the case with Curran’s previous reform packages — such as one targeting Nassau’s contracting system — her “transparency agenda” included some measures that others have called for previously or that have been enacted in some form.

But Curran argued that public records often are incomplete or difficult to access.

For example, while the Republican-controlled county legislature in recent years has posted meeting agendas and backup documentation online, finding the precise value of contracts or a detailed description of their purpose can require research. Curran would mandate that each item listed on an agenda contain a brief summary with that information.

She also called for a single, searchable database of each county expenditure, — “an online checkbook,” akin to what the Democratic-led Town of North Hempstead uses.

County Comptroller George Maragos, another Democratic county executive candidate, currently posts that information on his office’s website, but it is split among numerous spreadsheet files.

Another proposal would widen the county’s financial disclosure requirement to cover elected officials’ advisers who work under contract.

The county requires that hundreds of county employees fill out the annual forms, listing their business interests and financial holdings.

However, Curran noted that County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, once used Town of Hempstead Councilman Edward Ambrosino as his special counsel through a county contract.

Ambrosino, who also had legal contracts with the county Industrial Development Agency, was recently indicted on federal income tax evasion charges, and has pleaded not guilty. Newsday reported that Mangano and Ambrosino have a personal business relationship — information that was disclosed on Mangano’s county financial disclosure form. Ambrosino and Mangano are joint owners of a condominium in South Carolina and partners in a private equity firm.

While county contractors do not have to fill out the same financial disclosure forms as county employees, they have different business history forms that require some of the same financial information. These forms were strengthened by Mangano over the past two years in response to several contracting scandals.

Mangano was indicted last year on unrelated federal corruption charges and has pleaded not guilty.

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