Nassau Contract Process ‘Broken,’ Needs Reform, DA Says

Legislator 3

A Nassau County contactor with organized-crime connections is one of many problems investigators found in a county contract probe authorities launched after New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) was arrested.

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas released Thursday the 36-page report, which included a host of other serious issues uncovered as well as recommendations on how to prevent those problems from recurring. Top among the recommendations was urging County Executive Ed Mangano to appoint an independent inspector general to review all county contracts regardless of cost—not just those over $25,000 that require legislative approval.

“Nassau’s antiquated contracting process is a recipe for corruption and it’s critical that our leaders take immediate action to modernize and fortify this broken system,” said Singas, who called recent the county’s recent creation lobbyist registry inadequate.

Singas launched the probe in April shortly before Skelos and his son, Adam, were arrested on federal corruption charges for allegedly conspiring to take bribes in exchange for, among other things, steering a $12 million Nassau stormwater treatment contract. The county has not been accused of wrongdoing and both men have pleaded not guilty.

Shortly after Skelos’ arrest, Mangano issued an executive order creating a county lobbyist registry. The legislature later passed a bill codifying that move. But the new Nassau lobbyist registry still requires a fraction of the information compare to what New York City collects, Singas warned.

“We look forward to reviewing the Acting DA’s report delivered today and will discuss her suggestions with the County Attorney and Comptroller to determine how best to improve the procurement process that was put in place in 2004, and then follow up with the Acting DA,” Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, said.

“We’re glad to see that the report encompasses a lot of the things that we’ve been pushing for over the past two years,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), adding that he’s hopeful that Mangano and his allies in the Republican-led legislature will adopt the suggested reforms.

A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she wasn’t immediately able to comment because she was still reading the report.

Other “gaping holes” that Singas said her office found in their investigation, which is continuing, include the discovery of a contractor who is a bankrupt felon, a multi-contract recipient with multiple tax warrants and a contractor barred from government business in another jurisdiction.

Contributing to the problem, among other things, is the fact the county has no credible process to verify self-disclosed information provided by prospective vendors, politically influenced compliance investigations, unchecked discretion that leaves the county vulnerable to lobbyist manipulation, the lack of a central database of contracts, an inadequate vendor registration system and difficulty in crosschecking bidder’s information against public officials’ financial disclosure statements, which she said should be submitted electronically, Singas said.

“When it comes to government contracts, the honor system just doesn’t cut it,” Singas said. “Senior attorneys and investigators in my office are comprehensively reviewing contracts for illegality, undisclosed relationships and misrepresentations or omissions by county contractors… I will prosecute any crimes our review uncovers, and I am eager to work with county leaders to improve the broken contracting process that necessitated this review.”