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Contract woes still bedevil Nassau County

The Nassau County legislature in session on Sunday,

The Nassau County legislature in session on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Ever glad to cloak themselves in impotence, some of Nassau County’s Republican legislators are grumbling about being asked to approve public contracts for which the work started months ago. They’re not actually rejecting the contracts, which they have the authority to do, but the increasing volume of their grousing is quite impressive.

Many county contracts need only the approval of the legislature’s rules committee, a seven-member body with four Republicans and three Democrats. In a Feb. 13 meeting of the committee, Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, a Republican from New Hyde Park, said, “It’s almost as if the administration is just looking at us as a rubber stamp.” Then he acted as a rubber stamp, voting to approve a $396,000 deal to provide transportation to developmentally disabled preschool children. The deal passed on a 4-3 party-line vote; the work began this past September. The panel had just given unanimous approval to an $85,000 contract extension to a nonprofit organization that does domestic abuse counseling. The contract’s start date is July 1 — of last year.

Vendors aren’t supposed to start work until their contracts are approved by the legislature, but administration officials say they let work start to avoid interruptions of state-mandated services. And they say there is a big backlog of contracts that won’t soon dissipate because the county is modernizing contracting and requiring more information from vendors. These are changes that were demanded because the county contracting process was found to be a disastrous morass of corruption and waste.

The legislature needs to serve notice that it will reject these illegal contracts and demand that new ones be presented for approval in a timely manner. Until it does, nothing will change. — The editorial board