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Long IslandPolitics

Hiring of Suffolk campaign finance consultant sparks debate

A Suffolk committee voted 2-1 last week to waive the county's competitive bid process and hire a consultant for up to $30,000 to help establish the county's public campaign financing law.

County Executive Steve Bellone requested Nicole Gordon, the founding executive director of New York City's campaign finance board and currently a distinguished professor at Baruch College, help implement the 2017 law set to take effect in 2021.

Lora Gellerstein, chief of staff to Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) and waiver committee member, said the hire infringes on the authority given to the campaign finance board under county law.

"This waiver is really premature," she said at last Wednesday's  meeting. "It basically neuters the law that this body passed."

Most of Gordon's scope of work are tasks delegated to the board, which  is made up of an appointee each from the county executive, legislative majority leader and legislative minority leader, Gellerstein said.

Waiver Committee chairman Peter Scully, also a deputy county executive, and panel member Barry Paul, county director of performance management, voted for the contract.

Paul said a competitive bidding process was unlikely to find someone more qualified than Gordon.

But Gregory said the law "is clear that the Campaign Finance Board is supposed to drive the process, not an outside consultant." 

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), minority leader, called the waiver move "an attempt by the county executive to once again usurp the independence and authority of the legislature."

Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said hiring an expert at the outset, "is simple common sense and will help increase the chances that it is implemented in an independent and nonpartisan fashion."

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