From the right: Laura Curran: How is she doing?

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Since taking office on January 1, 2018, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has made serious strides to eliminate the flawed policies and practices of her federally-indicted predecessor, Ed Mangano.

She has also made a few rookie mistakes, but they can be easily corrected.

First, the good news.

Curran has appointed a deputy for compliance to review all county contracts to ensure there are no political influences.

She has prohibited appointees from holding political party posts and has banned them from making contributions to her campaign fund.

A Property Tax Task Force has been empowered, according to Newsday, to tackle policy issues, “including how to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in accumulated refund debt and how best to staff up Nassau’s assessment review operation.”

Curran has mandated that real estate be reassessed before the tentative tax roll is unveiled on January 1, 2019.

And she has extended deadlines for residential property tax challenges to April 1.

Most impressive has been the shake-out at the County’s most prominent political dumping ground, the Nassau University Medical Center.

Curran’s NUMC chairman, George Tsunis, has moved swiftly to cut wasteful spending by $2.34 million.

Two of Mangano’s top political flunkies, earning annually $199,000 and $165,000, respectively, have been canned.

Politically-connected marketing and public relations firm contracts have not been renewed. Tsunis has also referred several discoveries over to District Attorney Madeline Singas.

As for misjudgments, the first was Curran’s request to borrow $45 million to pay a judicial award.

Utilizing this fiscal gimmick will not get the county back on the road to fiscal sanity.

I am surprised Curran’s CFO Mark Page went along with this request. As a former New York City Budget Director and NIFA consultant, he knows better.

Curran’s biggest blunder, however, has been the appointment of Richie Kessel to the board of the County’s Industrial Development Authority.

I’m assuming that no advisor shared with Curran the December 2013 State Inspector General investigation report into the New York Power Authority during Kessel’s tenure as Chief Executive Officer.

One disturbing IG finding was “an apparent violation of the Public Officers Law and NYPA’s Code of Conduct regarding a financial loan made by a subordinate to a superior.”

Kessel accepted a $15,000 loan from an employee and both failed to “report this loan on their Annual Statements of Financial Disclosure as required by and in violation of the Public Officers Law.”

The report concluded “the loan by a subordinate to a superior by itself appears to violate the Public Officers Law and NYPA’s Code of Conduct.”

The IG also determined that Kessel appeared “to have violated the New York State Public Officers Law and NYPA’s Code of Conduct” by failing “to disclose an ongoing personal legal relationship he had with Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, PC, which responded to and was awarded Legal Services Counsel contracts.”

The IG found that Kessel failed to disclose the relationship “which he had retained to represent him in an ongoing personal legal matter that continued for the duration of the selection process and involved a significant outstanding balance in legal fees that persist to date.”

These findings are only a snippet of what is contained in the 40-page IG report.

One other Kessel tidbit: Syracuse Post-Standard reporter,Julie McMahon wrote on Feb. 19, that the disgraced lobbyist, Todd Howe, who has pleaded guilty to eight felonies, “dropped many names of people in high places during his testimony [in the Percoco trial] which made clear the access he enjoyed to the biggest names in state government” including NYPA CEO Richie Kessel. “Howe said he and Kessel worked together many years. Howe arranged meetings with Kessel for the Hudson Valley power plant project.”

Laura Curran pledged a transparent administration.

Ergo, considering the IDA’s checkered past, I can’t figure why she reached out to Richie Kessel, a life-long political hack who has failed to make required disclosures in the past.

If Kessel possesses one iota of political integrity, he will resign from the IDA to avoid embarrassing Curran further.

Overall Curran is off to a good start.

To keep the momentum going, she should stay away from political retreads.

3 COMMENTS

  1. LAWMAKER PUSHES FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY IN NASSAU COUNTY GOVERNMENT.
    Laura Curran pledged a transparent administration.
    Curran promises a total overhaul of county ethics.

    “We deserve a government that lives up to the people who live here that is open, that is transparent and is not corrupt,” Curran said.

    She is a former reporter for the New York Daily News and New York Post. She later worked part-time in the press office of former Democratic Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

    MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One Long Island lawmaker is pushing for greater transparency in Nassau County on multi-million dollar contract awards.
    Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) has introduced legislation that requires all contracts above $3 million receive a full legislative vote from all 19 members.

    “Laura Curran’s policies require legislative action, just as Laura voted to nearly double her own pay, she should vote to implement her own reforms,” Nevin said in an email.
    Legislator Carrie Solages said it’s about “basic transparency.”

    “Gulotta said the installation of the cameras requires the approval of the County Legislature. He didn’t know when they would be installed, or the price tag, but said it would run into the millions. “Yes, we can afford it,” he said. Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon has recommended the installation of cameras at the jail. Gulotta said the cameras could monitor performance, act as a deterrent and provide investigators with key evidence in the event an abuse complaint is filed. As the new liaison, Deputy Undersheriff Ernest Weber would report directly to the sheriff, the district attorney’s office and the County Legislature about abuse complaints. Gulotta said, as previously announced, that medical care is being upgraded at the jail.

    Rights of Inmates
    • Pre-trial detainees (those citizens who are too poor to afford bail and who are therefore held pending trial) have the right to be housed in humane facilities. In addition, pre-trial detainees cannot be “punished” or treated as guilty while they await trial.

    Huge lawsuits will be inevitable when the camera shows all that is denied in inmate care and custody.

    Prisoner advocates agree the introduction of cameras has deterred guard misconduct in many prisons and jails. It has also helped many victims of abuse prove their cases in court.

    A Proposal For Cameras In Nassau Jail
    The Nassau County District Attorney, Denis Dillon, called upon the County Legislature today to order the installation of video cameras throughout the county jail in East Meadow, where the authorities say an inmate was beaten to death earlier this month by guards. Mr. Dillon advised requiring Sheriff Joseph Jablonsky, who oversees the jail, to double the size of its four-person internal investigations unit, calling it ”clearly inadequate to effectively investigate an institution as large” as the 2,200-bed Nassau Correctional Center. He also recommended that transfers of inmates to disciplinary cells be recorded using hand-held video cameras.
    Jan. 29, 1999

    Video Monitors Planned for Troubled Nassau Jail
    Facing a Federal investigation of reports of abuse by guards at the county jail, the Nassau County Executive, Thomas S. Gulotta, announced today a series of initiatives, including the installation of surveillance cameras throughout the troubled correctional center. Mr. Gulotta said the surveillance system would permit the jail to monitor and record events in all inmate areas, including housing, recreation, visiting, transportation, holding, booking and medical locations and connecting hallways.
    March 9, 1999

    The guard most frequently accused of attacking inmates over the last decade, Salvatore Gemelli, was vice president and then president of the correction officers’ union for much of that time. And jail officials have yet to install the surveillance cameras that prosecutors have long urged as a way of deterring beatings and aiding investigators.

    In New York, it was only after Thomas Pizzuto was allegedly beaten to death in early January at the Nassau County Jail that the local district attorney called for the installation of video cameras.
    Mr. Martin also worked with the Nassau County jail after a fatal beating there in 1999 led to a federal probe into the jail’s use-of-force policy.

    D.   Videotaping
         75.   NCCC shall maintain sufficient hand-held video equipment to record all planned uses of force and sufficient equipment for investigators and supervisors to view such videotapes. The Deputy Undersheriff of Operations shall be responsible for ensuring that videotape equipment is properly maintained. NCCC shall develop and implement policies and procedures for recording all planned uses of force to the extent practicable; for training personnel assigned to film uses of force in the use and maintenance of such equipment; for disciplining staff who fail to videotape incidents as required; for disciplining staff who tamper with the videotape machines or tapes; and for reviewing regularly the tapes. NCCC shall maintain the used tapes for three years to ensure that evidence is not destroyed or lost. No tapes containing relevant evidence shall be destroyed during the pendency of any civil, criminal, or administrative investigation, prosecution, or litigation.

    To date, 190 officers have been injured in the line of duty at the jail, while 271 were hurt by inmates last year, Sullivan said.
     Not one caught on Video Surveillance Cameras since 1999.

    (Editor’s Note: ShOA, which was formed in 1999 as a result of the Nassau County correction officers’ separation from CSEA, represents approximately 1,100 correction officers who serve at the Nassau County Correctional Facility.)
    The union is a formidable political force, protected in the Legislature.

    Attorney Elizabeth Koob, who has represented several inmates in excessive-force lawsuits, said the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision fights lawsuits so vigorously that it leaves little room for disciplining guilty officers.

    “By the time they lose or realize that they must settle,” she said in an email, “it is too late under the union contract to prosecute charges against the employee.” Inmates who complain have told her they are “harassed by guards, threatened and often written up with false charges.”
    These cameras will cost a great deal when the whole picture is shown, and not just because of capital expenditures. Huge lawsuits will be inevitable when the camera shows all that is denied in inmate care and custody.
    Inmates who come forward and speak out in defense of other prisoners who have filed brutality complaints receive the same treatment. There is reported one example of an inmate who testified, backing the charges of another, and as a result had his nose broken by the same guard that was originally charged. This inmate has yet to press charges against the guard. There are other examples, and it is clear that the guards routinely utilize such techniques to keep prisoners silent.

    “Laura Curran is the only candidate for County Executive who can clean up the culture of corruption and give Nassau the fresh start it deserves. She’s putting forward real solutions to the County’s biggest problems and will make our government work for the people who pay for it – the taxpayers.”

    Federal obstruction of justice statutes have been used to prosecute government officials who have sought to prevent the disclosure of
    damaging information.

  2. Settlement Agreement | CRT | Department of Justice:
    Since the enactment of Article XX § 2004 in 1990, no County Executive, including former County Executives Thomas S. Gullotta and Thomas R. Suozzi as well as present County Executive Edward S. Mangano has ever appointed seven members to the Board and the Board has never met.

    SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
               -against-
    NASSAU COUNTY, THOMAS GULOTTA,
Nassau County Executive, NASSAU
COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, and
EDWARD REILLY, Sheriff of Nassau
County, Defendants.
    D.   Videotaping
         75.   NCCC shall maintain sufficient hand-held video equipment to record all planned uses of force and sufficient equipment for investigators and supervisors to view such videotapes. The Deputy Undersheriff of Operations shall be responsible for ensuring that videotape equipment is properly maintained. NCCC shall develop and implement policies and procedures for recording all planned uses of force to the extent practicable; for training personnel assigned to film uses of force in the use and maintenance of such equipment; for disciplining staff who fail to videotape incidents as required; for disciplining staff who tamper with the videotape machines or tapes; and for reviewing regularly the tapes. NCCC shall maintain the used tapes for three years to ensure that evidence is not destroyed or lost. No tapes containing relevant evidence shall be destroyed during the pendency of any civil, criminal, or administrative investigation, prosecution, or litigation.

    She is a former reporter for the New York Daily News and New York Post. She later worked part-time in the press office of former Democratic Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

  3. She is a former reporter for the New York Daily News and New York Post. She later worked part-time in the press office of former Democratic Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

    “Gulotta said the installation of the cameras requires the approval of the County Legislature. He didn’t know when they would be installed, or the price tag, but said it would run into the millions. “Yes, we can afford it,” he said. Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon has recommended the installation of cameras at the jail. Gulotta said the cameras could monitor performance, act as a deterrent and provide investigators with key evidence in the event an abuse complaint is filed.

    Darryl Woody, 44 years old, committed suicide on January 3, 2011, while at the NUMC Prison Ward. The New York State Commission of Correction, an independent state entity that investigates deaths in custodial facilities, reported that his death “may have been prevented but for the grossly inadequate psychiatric care provided him in the jail and hospital, and the lack of appropriate supervision by the NUMC.” The Commission of Correction further reported that Mr. Woody had a history of mental instability and had previously attempted suicide once before entering jail and once in December 2010 while on suicide watch in the jail. The Commission’s report recommended investigations into the jail’s booking, supervision and staffing procedures, as well as investigations for “gross negligence and gross incompetence” of the two doctors who treated Mr. Woody.

    Legal Consequences to Gross Negligence
    In the majority of ordinary negligence claims, the plaintiff is awarded compensatory damages if the court rules in their favor. This compensation comes in the form of monetary damages in order to reimburse victims for their medical costs, lost wages, court costs, and losses. In gross negligence claims, a court can award punitive damages depending on the facts of the case.

    Punitive damages are designed to prevent the defendant from continuing to engage in dangerous behaviors. Punitive damages often come in the form of very high monetary awards, though some states place limits on the amount a plaintiff can collect. In some cases, criminal charges can also be brought against the individual acting in gross negligence.

    The fact is, if someone is intent on taking their life, there’s very little you can do,” County Executive Ed Mangano told a reporters’ roundtable when asked about the deaths three months after Woody’s suicide. That’s why there are strict legal guidelines regulating suicide questionnaires upon inmate intake, and guards carry a special knife called a “cut-down tool” to quickly saw through makeshift bed-sheet nooses.

    Negligent in the case of a combat A federal jury in Central Islip, New York recently found that Nassau County jail’s medical provider and the county were negligent in the case of a combat veteran who hanged himself in the jail in 2012.
The jury awarded almost $8 million to the decedent’s family, Newsday reports.
    The jury ordered Armor Correctional Health Services to pay $7 million in punitive damages to the family of Bartholomew Ryan, 32, and also awarded the family $890,000 in compensatory damages against Armor and Nassau County.

    In their lawsuit, the family contended that former Marine’s death was wrongful because the county and Armor were negligent during the Ryan’s brief incarceration for driving while on drugs. The suit contends that Ryan did not get proper care, despite a screening showing he was a suicide risk. Nicholas Warywoda, of the law firm Parker Waichman, which represented Ryan’s mother, said, “the jury made a point to tell Armor and the county that’s not how you treat our veterans and people,” Newsday reports.

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