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Nassau elected officials trade barbs on Skelos probe

Federal criminal charges against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his adult son, Adam, have sparked a war of tweets, so to speak, between two Nassau elected officials.

“#WhereHaveYouBeen @Charles_Lavine?” tweeted Republican Nassau Comptroller George Maragos after he received an emailed request from the Glen Cove Democrat asking for a probe of Nassau’s $12 million contract with Ab Tech Industries, which is a key part of the federal investigation. Political gossip columnist Liz Benjamin tweeted Lavine’s request soon after Maragos received it.

“We're supporting DA investigation,” Maragos said in his tweet, noting his office had already stopped payments to Ab Tech.

Nassau’s Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat seeking the party’s nomination to run for the permanent job this fall, announced last month that her office is conducting a “comprehensive review” of the county’s contracting process after news reports about the federal probe.

Dean Skelos and his son were charged Monday with extortion, conspiracy and solicitation of bribes after the senator allegedly pressured county officials to award a stormwater filtering contract to Ab Tech in 2013 as a way to funnel money to his son, who represented the firm. Both Skelos and son have denied any wrongdoing.

Maragos spokesman Jostyn Hernandez said the comptroller stopped payments to Ab Tech and reviewed all its prior claims last month. By then, Ab Tech had been paid $144,657.

In his email, Lavine wrote that the comptroller should “conduct both an investigation and a public hearing into how so troubling and cynical an exploitation of governmental process occurred.”

Maragos responded in his own email: “Since the contract process is currently under review by the Nassau County District Attorney, a further review by the Comptroller's Office would be duplicative. Our Office is cooperating fully with the DA in this regard. The Legislative Minority has also requested public hearings and when those are scheduled, we will fully cooperate.”

Although legislative Democrats have asked for a hearing, Republicans in control of county government are not willing to schedule one in the midst of an ongoing federal investigation.

Maragos added in his email to Lavine, “In the meantime, we ask that you, as co-Chairman of the Legislative Ethics Commission, take more vigorous initiatives to 'drain the swamp of corruption in Albany' as Governor Andrew Cuomo alleged five years ago. This 'swamp', rather than have been contained, appears to have overflown and has now touched Nassau County.”


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