The website for the Nassau County comptroller’s office lists the responsibilities of that agency. The first two are “Monitor Nassau’s budget and financial operations” and “Audit government agencies and agencies with county contracts to uncover waste and abuse.”
So in a county struggling with budget deficits, it’s disturbing that the office recently distributed at county expense 50,000 copies of a four-page pamphlet that, along with Comptroller George Maragos’ photograph and name and the county seal, provides a list of free concerts.
Nassau County legislators and County Executive Edward Mangano have long been criticized for printing and mailing “informational” pieces that come off as campaign material, and Maragos says that criticism is fair. He argues that because his pieces were distributed by salaried employees at local businesses and libraries, they were much cheaper, at about $6,000, than those mailers. He says the message on the pamphlets — encouraging residents to report waste, fraud and abuse — needs to get out. And he said including his picture on the pieces is “protocol.”
But the printing and distribution of the pieces seems self-promoting and political. And to the extent that it seems political, having county employees distribute them presents its own moral and ethical questions. Maragos claims it’s not electioneering because he isn’t running for anything. That’s true this year, but not necessarily in the future.
A Newsday investigation into Nassau’s contracting found many no-bid deals that didn’t need legislative approval because they were for just under the $25,000 threshold. Many were for work that may not have been necessary, with providers that didn’t have the unique qualifications required to avoid a bidding process. Maragos should focus his and his staff’s attention on that, and not on publicizing concerts. — The editorial board