Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s order barring county employees involved with contracting or procurement from accepting gifts from vendors sends the right message. But if Curran wants to take a more significant step to end the county’s culture of corruption, she must drastically reduce the limits on political contributions from those vendors, currently set at $50,000 for countywide offices. That was one of her campaign promises.
Last week, Curran signed an executive order that bars employees who have a role in influencing how taxpayer dollars are spent from accepting even a cup of coffee from those seeking to do business with the county. The previous rule barred gifts worth $75 or more.
Nassau County is besieged with scandals. Former County Executive Edward Mangano is to go on trial this month on federal charges of taking bribes and gifts from restaurateur Harendra Singh. Mangano’s wife, Linda, is charged with accepting a no-show job from Singh. Former Mangano chief deputy Rob Walker is charged with lying to the FBI about accepting $5,000 from a county vendor. Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is due to be retried on corruption charges involving a contract that sold Nassau County sponges for storm sewers. And a Newsday investigation found hundreds of contracts written for just under the $25,000 limit that required legislative approval, many for the politically connected, some for work not needed or performed.
No law can stop bad actors, but Curran must send a message that the pork fest for friends and family is over. A ban on significant campaign contributions for those seeking county office would mean more than barring cups of coffee for employees.