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Norma Gonsalves to be the subject of hearing on state campaign law violations, records say

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature is shown during a meeting of the legislature in Mineola on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Gonsalves is the subject of the first hearing by the state's new enforcement unit that investigates potential violations of state campaign laws. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

ALBANY — The presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature will be the subject of the first hearing of the state’s new enforcement unit that investigates potential violations of state campaign laws, according to a state record.

A hearing officer is being assigned in the case of Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), according to the state Board of Elections record obtained Wednesday by Newsday. No date has been set and no details were revealed about what will be discussed in the hearing.

A state official confirmed the hearing will involve an investigation by Newsday, which found the campaign hadn’t properly filed many financial reports.

A spokesman for Gonsalves said Wednesday that all deficiencies have been corrected by the campaign committee.

Newsday reported in February that Gonsalves violated state election laws at least 33 times over nine years by failing to disclose political donors and campaign expenses involving Friends for Norma Gonsalves, a previously unregistered campaign committee that she controls.

After being contacted by Newsday, Gonsalves, a Republican from East Meadow, made her first disclosure with the state Board of Elections in October 2014. While the filing belatedly created the campaign committee, it did not disclose details of the tens of thousands of dollars in donations and expenses that have gone through the committee.

Local lawmakers have been required since 2006 to file their disclosures electronically with the state Board of Elections. Gonsalves initially told Newsday she had been filing handwritten, paper reports with the Nassau County Board of Elections and blamed that agency for failing to send them to the state. She later blamed her treasurer for not filing the reports.

Records on the State Board of Elections website show Gonsalves has since updated her filings dating to 2006. The records show that her campaign committee has collected nearly $202,000 in contributions and spent more than $137,000 since 2006. Republican elections attorney John Ryan, acting as a spokesman for Gonsalves, told Newsday in February that Gonsalves and her treasurer, Joseph Parisi, were unable to figure out the electronic filing process.

“Friends of Norma Gonsalves is in full compliance with New York State election law,” Gonsalves spokesman Francis X. Moroney said Wednesday. “As such, this must be perceived as a selective and highly partisan proceeding.”

Candidates are required to file campaign finance reports to reveal to the public who is funding their campaigns and how the political campaigns spend the donations. The records also are a safeguard against accepting donations that exceed limits in state law or otherwise violate state law.

A spokesman for District Attorney-elect Madeline Singas, a Democrat, said the prosecutor was involved in the case.

“We collaborated with the BOE enforcement counsel to ensure a thorough investigation of this matter,” said spokesman Shams Tarek. He added that “several other political organizations failed to make proper filings as well. These matters remain under review by my office.”

The Times Union of Albany first reported plans for the state hearing for Gonsalves.

Gonsalves controls the legislature’s budget, chairs the Rules Committee and decides what bills will be considered and if hearings will be convened.

Earlier this week, Gonsalves, along with the other 18 legislators, voted to nearly double their salary, from $39,500 to $75,000. Gonsalves’ leadership position also brings a $28,000 stipend.

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