Nassau County officials have launched a second review of their contracting process since New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) was accused extorting bribes in exchange for influencing a county contract.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, appointed a three-man panel that will review the county’s contracting process, he announced Monday—four weeks after acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat, issued a report recommending reforms amid her office’s continuing review of a system she called “a recipe for corruption.”
Mangano’s appointees include Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, former Keyspan CEO Robert Catell and Frank Zarb, the former chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state panel that oversees the county’s finances.
“I commend them for their civic involvement and look forward to their review,” Mangano said.
The panel and Singas’ review come after Skelos and his son, Adam, were arrested on federal corruption charges in May 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. Skelos later resigned from his role as senate majority leader, but not his seat.
Singas praised Mangano for appointing the trio.
“I applaud the county executive for taking our recommendation and appointing a distinguished panel to reform Nassau’s broken and corruption-prone contracting process,” she said in a statement. “I hope that this panel adopts the comprehensive recommendations detailed in our report, including the establishment of an independent inspector general to police the contracting process.”
Aside from appointing an IG, issues Singas raised in her 36-page report last month include the lack of a 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.
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.
Singas was appointed district attorney in January after her former boss, Kathleen Rice, assumed her recently won congressional seat. Singas, who was nominated by the Nassau County Democratic Committee as their candidate to continue serving as the county’s top law enforcement official, faces a primary challenge from Michael Scotto, a former Manhattan prosecutor and Port Washington native. The winner of the primary will go on to face the Republican challenger, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, on Election Day.