Jack Martins, the Republican Nassau County executive candidate, attacked his Democratic opponent’s plan to reform Nassau’s ethics board as a “charade” on Wednesday.
County Legislator Laura Curran, the Democratic nominee for Nassau’s top office, has proposed a bill that would give the county comptroller and top legislators the power to appoint members of the Board of Ethics. The county executive currently appoints four of the five members.
The Board of Ethics is responsible for investigating complaints of ethical wrongdoing by county officials, advising officials on ethics policies and enforcing financial disclosure rules.
Martins, a former state senator, said Curran’s plan only shuffles the board’s membership without giving it additional power to root out corruption.
“Laura Curran’s proposal is nothing more than politics and misses the opportunity to move forward on ethics reform,” Martins said in a news release.
The Board of Ethics has only recently been drawn into the debate over anti-corruption reforms, which erupted in 2015 after then-state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were indicted on federal corruption charges involving a $12 million Nassau contract. Both were convicted and are appealing.
Both Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and an independent panel appointed by current Republican County Executive Edward Mangano — who was indicted on federal corruption charges last year — conducted reviews in 2015 of the Nassau contracting process, from which several scandals have emerged.
The changes to the Board of Ethics that Martins and Curran have proposed were not among the many reforms those reviews recommended, several of which have not been implemented.
Martins, who has called for Mangano’s resignation, says he would restructure the board so that no more than two of its five members would be from the same political party. The county’s investigations commissioner would also work as the board’s “investigatory arm” under Martins plan.
The county executive would appoint and the Legislature would confirm the members, who would serve staggered five-year terms, as would Curran’s proposal.
Under Curran’s plan, which the Legislature’s Democratic caucus introduced as a bill last month, the county comptroller and the Legislature’s presiding officer and minority leader would each appoint one ethics board member. The county executive would get two appointments, one of which would be recommended by labor unions representing county employees.
In a statement, Curran said she has also proposed reforms to the county contracting process, a ban on political contributions by county vendors and other measures to stop corruption before it happens.
“[T]axpayers just can’t trust Jack Martins, who carried water for [the Nassau Republican] machine and stifled ethics reform in Albany at every turn,” Curran said.
Curran has the backing of the Nassau County Democratic Committee but faces a primary against Nassau Comptroller George Maragos.
Martins has also proposed a measure that would allow the county Legislature to remove the county executive from office and independent budgets for the investigations commissioner and the procurement compliance director, who oversees county contracts.