Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) would aim to install an independent inspector general and create term limits for officials if she is elected county executive this year, she said Thursday.
Curran laid out eight anti-corruption proposals that would largely strengthen existing ethics measures in county law as a way to fight what she called a “culture of corruption” among Nassau’s top officials, citing Republican County Executive Edward Mangano’s indictment on federal corruption charges in October.
“We pay the highest taxes, and what do we get in return?” Curran said at a news conference outside her Baldwin home. “Indictments, nepotism, cronyism, favoritism — you name it.”
Curran and the six other Democratic Nassau legislators have pushed for an independent inspector general’s office to oversee and investigate the entire county government since 2015.
In Curran’s plan, the inspector general, whom an independent body would appoint, would work alongside a strengthened commissioner of investigations, an official appointed by the county executive who should be his or her “eyes and ears,” Curran said.
Curran also wants the county executive, clerk and comptroller limited to two four-year terms, and county legislators to six two-year terms, she said, noting Suffolk and Westchester counties have similar provisions.
Her other proposals include strengthening the county ethics code and protections for whistleblowers, requiring additional financial disclosures for county employees, ending nepotism in hiring for public jobs and making the county ethics board a bipartisan body with a rotating chair. Its members are currently appointed by the county executive.
Most of Curran’s proposals would require approval from the Republican-controlled county Legislature, which, along with Mangano, has stonewalled Democrats’ efforts to implement reforms in the wake of several corruption scandals relating to county contracts.
“I would dare any legislator, any public official, to stand up before their taxpayers, whether they’re a Democrat or Republican, and say we don’t need these reforms,” Curran said.
Curran, a second-term county legislator and former Baldwin school board trustee, is among four Democrats seeking to replace Mangano, a second-term Republican who pleaded not guilty in October to federal charges stemming from an alleged bribe and kickback scheme with restaurateur Harendra Singh.
Mangano’s wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto were also indicted. All have pleaded not guilty.
Other Democrats running include state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and county Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who was elected alongside Mangano in 2009 and 2013.
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman is considering formally entering the race and sent a fundraising pitch to supporters on Thursday.
Brian Nevin, a Mangano spokesman, called Curran’s claims “mudslinging tactics” and said the ethics reforms Mangano and the Legislature have enacted are “some of the most comprehensive and transparent” in the country.
The Legislature last year lowered the threshold for legislative approval of county contracts to $1,000 from $25,000, and Mangano hired a procurement compliance director to oversee Nassau’s contracting system.
“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.
Curran announced her proposals a day before the state Board of Elections’ Jan. 13 deadline for collecting campaign donations that must be publicly reported this week.
Also on Thursday, Maragos announced that he had hired Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant who was worked for Michael Bloomberg and Bill Clinton, as his head campaign strategist.
Sheinkopf has worked on more than 700 political campaigns and was previously a political consultant for the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, the county’s largest police union.
“Our campaign needs a steady, experienced hand who can assemble a team of top professionals to take on the insiders for the people of the county,” Maragos said in a statement. “That’s why I chose Hank Sheinkopf as my general strategist.”