Nassau Pols OK New Lobbyist Registry

Reconstruction 2
The Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.

Nassau County lawmakers this week codified the creation of a new, local registry for lobbyists in the wake of a corruption scandal partly involving those who lobbied for a $12-million county contract.

The GOP-controlled county legislature unanimously approved Monday the measure proposed by County Executive Ed Mangano, also a Republican, who previously enacted the registry via executive order last month. But the legislative Democratic minority argued that the bill didn’t go far enough.

“We truly feel that this bill could’ve been much, much stronger,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said before voting for the legislation. He said that he voted for it because “it’s better than what we have now, which is nothing.”

Suffolk County, New York City and New York State each have their own lobbying regulations, but Nassau did not follow suit since its legislature was formed 19 years ago. Nassau’s new lobbyist disclosure form can be found on the county’s website.

County lawmakers scrambled to address the omission upon news that state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, were charged with allegedly lobbying for a contract in Nassau in exchange for bribes, among other allegations. Both have pleaded not guilty, and the county has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Senator Skelos resigned from his role as majority leader of the chamber in the wake of the charges.

“It is really something that we thought was necessary in light of the things that are happening,” said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalvez (R-East Meadow), who added that “we’re headed in the right direction.”

Gonsalves maintained that the bill, which Mangano is expected to sign into law, is comprehensive and suggested that Democrats were calling for excessive information that would make it difficult for vendors to do business with the county. Abrahams, who has stepped up his questioning of officials tasked with ushering through county contracts when contracts come up for approval before the powerful Rules Committee, said Democrats are only trying to avoid a repeat of the scandal.

“Our bill…primarily was focused on making sure if there was any influence at all from any angle, that this legislature should know about it,” he said. “We want to make sure every component of what we’ve read [about the allegations] is addressed.”