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It’s time for voters to force a change in Nassau’s contracting process

The Nassau County Legislature Rules Committee discuss contracts

The Nassau County Legislature Rules Committee discuss contracts during a meeting on Monday, June 6, 2016, in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

In Nassau County, big political contributions are still flowing in from county vendors, but for all the talk about transparency, the donations aren’t always disclosed in county forms.

In 2015, County Executive Edward Mangano was hit by accusations that Nassau’s contracting process was corrupt, lacked oversight and made it easy for vendors to buy influence. No-bid contracts just under the $25,000 limit requiring legislative approval were granted, often to the politically connected, sometimes for unnecessary work. Then state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son were convicted of corruption related to a $12 million county contract to put sponges in storm sewers. And Mangano now faces federal corruption charges, in part based on a county contract for $240,000 worth of hot meals after superstorm Sandy.

In response to the uproar, Mangano commissioned a panel of respected community leaders to come up with reforms. Former Nasdaq chairman Frank Zarb, Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz and former KeySpan Energy chairman Robert Catell came up with a strong list of improvements. Mangano and the GOP-majority legislature ignored many of them. And the problems persist.

One suggestion was to put a $2,000 cap on vendor donations to candidates for county political offices and to political party committees. Instead, the county put in a tougher disclosure rule for vendor contributions to candidates, but did nothing about vendor contributions to the party committees that provide so much money to campaigns.

According to a Newsday investigation, in the year since the new rules began, 52 companies doing county business made political contributions totaling $183,000 that were not disclosed. This will change when voters force it. Until then, the business as usual goes on.

— The editorial board

CORRECTION: This editorial has been updated to correct an earlier version that said disclosure of $183,000 was required by law; it is not when the money goes to political committees.


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