It's becoming increasingly obvious that Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his pals are using the government they oversee as a treasure chest to enrich buddies and contributors. And they're violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.
Newsday reported Monday that since 2011, the county has awarded 384 contracts for amounts of $24,000 to $24,999, worth almost $10 million. Most were for "personal services," a category for which contracts of more than $25,000 must be approved by the county legislature's rules committee. In the same period, the county entered into only 20 contracts of $25,000 to $25,999, just above the approval threshold.
The caveat that lets Mangano's administration award these deals without a vote was approved by voters in 1997 to allow officials to contract for work quickly when needed. But much of the work contracted via this exemption under Mangano did not need to be done quickly, if at all.
Famed former NYPD Det. Richard "Bo" Dietl got a $24,000 contract to analyze a possible merger of the Freeport and Hempstead police departments with the county's police force. But because neither Freeport nor Hempstead officials had discussed such a move with the county, it's hard to justify hurrying that work. And what time crunch necessitated two $24,900 contracts for political polling and advertising firm McLaughlin & Associates to produce "media plans" in 2012 and 2013?
Mangano's old law firm got three such contracts. The law firm of Sen. Dean Skelos, the former Senate majority leader, got two contracts. Skelos has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges in an unrelated case.
About 60 percent of the recipients of these 384 slightly sub-$25,000 contracts contributed to Mangano's election campaigns. There are two reasons so many contracts could fall into such a narrow price range. Coincidence doesn't square with the evidence. Cronyism does.