DeRiggi-Whitton seeks review of Walker’s county contracts

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Delia DeRiggi-Whitton at the Blank Slate Media office. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

Former Nassau County Deputy Executive Rob Walker is scheduled to appear in court in September over charges that he obstructed justice and lied to the FBI. The charges stem from the fact that Walker allegedly received a payment from a contractor, and yet Nassau has continued to sign off on contracts he approved.

County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) wants to put a stop to that.

“I understand the [Nassau County Executive Laura Curran] administration was going through a transition and Walker is innocent until proven guilty, but there is enough reason to be concerned,” she said.

DeRiggi-Whitton first raised the alarm earlier in May. Last week, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) sent a letter to Curran requesting that the county review and possibly rebid all contracts approved by Walker.

Walker was charged in February with obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. The Republican former state assemblyman allegedly received a $5,000 cash payment from a contractor. When he discovered that he was the subject of a federal investigation, Walker allegedly tried to convince the contractor to lie on his behalf. He later returned the payment to the contractor at a park while under surveillance by the FBI, according to prosecutors.

They said the payment was turned over by the contractor to the FBI. They also said that when brought in for questioning, Walker denied ever receiving a payment from the contractor.

During the trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) in 2015, Walker admitted that he was under federal investigation over county contracts. Walker denied any wrongdoing. He has pleaded not guilty.

Walker’s boss, former County Executive Edward Mangano, is on trial for allegedly receiving gifts from restaurateur Harendra Singh in exchange for county contracts. During that trial, a witness testified that Walker was among the county officials who pushed for a bread and rolls contract to be awarded to a bakery run by Singh’s wife.

“I wouldn’t be asking this had the indictments not taken place for Walker and Mangano,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “This is not normal.”

She said she understood that the Curran administration needed some time to get things running and applauded last week’s announcement of new regulations for the process of procuring contracts. But she said the county could no longer blindly approve Walker’s contracts.

“I know the administration is short staffed and that they don’t want to hold up projects, but we held up bonding for so long because we wanted to make sure procurement was done correctly,” she said. “[Reviewing and rebidding] is time well spent.”

Curran spokesman Michael Martino said Curran was on the same page as her fellow Democrats in the Legislature.

“We completely agree with Minority Leader Abrahams and his caucus and share their concerns,” Martino told Newsday.

The Curran administration has already sued to invalidate contracts that Walker signed with the county’s five public employee unions in September 2017.

Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement that Republicans will do their “due diligence” to scrutinize each contract that is up for approval. Among those in the majority is Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville), Rob Walker’s mother.

“I don’t want to put her in an awkward position and … I feel for her as a mother, but I can’t not say something,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

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