Laura Curran floats strict rules for government mailings

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Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) discusses her proposal to restrict government mailings at her Baldwin home on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran proposed Thursday strict limits on government mailings that she would implement if elected.

Through an executive order, Curran said, she would restrict the content and timing of mailings from county government offices, which she cast as unnecessary, taxpayer-funded self-promotion for elected officials.

“These mailings are egregious, they’re useless, and when I’m county executive, we’re going to put a stop to it,” Curran, a second-term county legislator, said at a news conference outside her Baldwin home.

Under Curran’s proposed policy, mailings from the county executive’s office and its departments could only contain “objective information” about upcoming events, public safety concerns and changes to county policies or initiatives; and must explicitly say that taxpayer money funded them.

The county budget would have to allocate funds for mailings, and any money given to county legislators would have to be equally distributed, Curran said.

Mailings could not contain any elected official’s photograph, only mention the official’s name once and could not be sent fewer than 60 days before a primary or general election, Curran said.

The county Board of Ethics could give fines up to $10,000 to violators of the policy, Curran said.

An executive order containing the new rules would only apply to the county executive’s office and the departments within its purview.

The Legislature would have to approve a local law to apply them to legislators and other elected countywide officials, such as the comptroller and district attorney. Curran said she would also push for such a law.

County officials regularly send mail touting their policy accomplishments or criticizing other officials. Mailings are generally funded by official government offices or lawmakers’ political campaigns — but it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference, Curran said.

The latest mailing from Curran’s legislative office, which bears a photo of her, advertises an April 5 forum about storm resiliency and economic development projects in the Baldwin area.

The Legislature spends about $1 million annually on postage for mailing, Curran said. Design and printing services add to the cost.

Curran accused Edward Mangano, the current Republican county executive who is facing federal corruption charges, of including “alternative facts,” or misleading information “that would make you think our county government is shangri-la.”

Nassau’s GOP lawmakers came under fire in 2015 when they sent a postcard saying they had not raised property taxes for five years, when they had in fact increased 3.4 percent for that year. A tax rebate later offset the hike.

The Legislature’s GOP majority would not support a law containing Curran’s rules because existing mailings already follow state and county laws, Matt Fernando, a spokesman for the caucus, said.

“Nothing says, ‘vote for this person,’ nothing is overtly political like that,” Fernando said.

The two legislative caucuses get funds for mailings based on how many members they have, Fernando said, and the majority and minority leaders decide how it’s distributed.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, said Curran “must be referring to her own mailings as all of the county executive’s mailings are informative and include every legislator’s name.”

Curran is facing a three-way Democratic primary for county executive against state Assemblyman Charles Lavine and Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican.

Mangano, who pleaded not guilty last October to federal corruption charges, has not said whether he will seek re-election, and the Nassau GOP has yet to name another candidate.

Curran is backed by the Nassau Democratic Committee, but Lavine was endorsed Wednesday by Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and the owner of the Great Neck public relations firm Zimmerman/Edelson.

Lavine’s “deep understanding of the issues that face Nassau County residents and record of leadership in Albany and on Long Island makes him a strong candidate for the future,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

Maragos also announced endorsements Thursday from 12 Hispanic pastors, continuing his efforts to win support from ethnic minority groups and community leaders.

“Mr. Maragos is a man of integrity and has demonstrated his honesty and transparency in running the County’s finances as well as being interested in the well-being of Hispanics,” Pastor Lazaro Rodriguez of Freeport said in a statement.

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