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Nassau Republicans, Democrats spar over county borrowing

Republicans and Democrats at odds in the Nassau

Republicans and Democrats at odds in the Nassau Legislature. Credit: iStock

Nassau Legislative Republicans on Monday accused Democratic lawmakers of “putting public safety at risk” by refusing to provide the votes needed to borrow $275 million for county capital projects, including bulletproof vests for police and handicapped accessible ramps.

But Democratic Minority Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his members will not approve the borrowing until the GOP appoints an independent inspector general to oversee Nassau’s contracting process.

Borrowing to fund the $275 million capital budget for 2015 and 2016 requires 13 votes; the GOP majority has 12 votes and the Democrats have seven.

At a news conference in Mineola, presiding officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) called the Democrats’ position a “political stunt” that would harm taxpayers.

“The minority is refusing to fund the Nassau capital plan for purely political purposes,” Gonsalves said. “For some headlines and political points the Democratic legislators are putting public safety at risk.”

Gonsalves said the projects at risk include new sewers in Sea Cliff, rebuilding Centennial Park in Roosevelt, traffic improvements in Uniondale, Roslyn, Baldwin and Great Neck and new handicap ramps required by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Police Department, she said, also is waiting for the money to purchase bulletproof vests and license plate readers.

Legislative Democrats said at a news conference that they will not allow the bonding until Republicans and County Executive Edward Mangano approve an inspector general.

Mangano says an inspector general is unnecessary. He says the contract oversight work already is performed by County Attorney Carnell Foskey, who also is Commissioner of Investigations.

Abrahams said about 90 percent of the borrowed capital funds will be directed to outside contractors. He said the only way to assure that the money is spent appropriately is through an independent watchdog.

Abrahams questioned Foskey’s independence from the county, saying, “We cannot in good conscience vote for a capital plan without the proper procurement in place.”

County spokesman Brian Nevin said the in the coming weeks Mangano will appoint a new commissioner of investigations and will select a procurement compliance director.

The standoff followed a series of contracting controversies that have roiled county and state government.

In December, former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, were convicted of federal corruption charges.

They were found guilty of using the senator’s power as majority leader to pressure three companies to give jobs, fees and benefits worth $300,000 to Adam, doing favors in Albany for the companies in return, and intervening with Nassau County to help one of the companies, AbTech Industries. The Skeloses are appealing.

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