Democratic Nassau County executive candidates Laura Curran and George Maragos made campaign pledges this week to mitigate the influence of politics on county government.
Maragos on Wednesday announced a package of proposed anti-corruption reforms, among them a reconstitution of the Nassau Board of Elections that the sitting county comptroller says would save $7 million annually.
And Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, pledged to keep her name off signs and other county promotional materials, something she says current Republican County Executive Edward Mangano has abused for political purposes.
The proposals come as the candidates, competing in a Democratic primary with state Assemblyman Charles Lavine, look to reform Nassau following Mangano’s indictment last fall on federal corruption charges.
Maragos is the first of the three candidates to propose the public funding of elections by consolidating the parallel, partisan Board of Elections operations into one “independent” board. That would cut about $7 million in salaries, which could be used to help candidates fund campaigns, he said.
“The band aids proposed by hand-picked candidates to the insidious problem of corruption are a diversion to appease voters and will never end the pay-to-play corruption culture,” Maragos said in a statement.
The state constitution requires that boards of elections be controlled by the two political parties garnering the most votes in the most recent general election. Maragos’ campaign says the election commissioners would still be political appointees, but the board would have one staff that would follow civil service hiring guidelines, as opposed to the current parallel staffs appointed by each party.
Maragos’ other four proposals mostly line up with what other Democrats have proposed, but in some cases go further.
He would limit the county executive and legislators to eight years in office, appoint an inspector general to oversee contracts, ban all political contributions by county vendors, and consolidate the jobs of the procurement compliance and purchasing directors into a single independent procurement director’s office.
Philip Shulman, Curran’s campaign spokesman, said Maragos, a former Republican, is late to the game.
“Where were George Maragos’s anti-corruption proposals when he ran for office twice as Ed Mangano’s running mate?” Shulman said in an email.
Curran on Friday said she would remove her name from all signs and other promotional materials if elected and deny county legislators’ requests to do the same.
Mangano has wasted taxpayer money putting his name on everything from signs to golf pencils for no purpose other than political self-promotion.
“It’s clear that Ed Mangano is using Nassau residents’ tax dollars for his own personal political branding,” Curran said, standing in front of a sign bearing Mangano’s name at Grant Park in Hewlett.
Officials at every level of government brand public resources with their names, a practice that has detractors and supporters.
Though there would be a cost to scrubbing Mangano’s name from signs, Curran said leaving them blank would still save the county money.
Brian Nevin, a Mangano spokesman, noted that Curran’s name is on county signs, including one on the new 1st Police Precinct in Baldwin.
Mangano has only followed longstanding practices in putting his name on signs at county parks, Nevin said.
“If Laura Curran wants to get elected, she better come up with a real plan that saves more than the cost of paint and stickers,” Nevin said in an email.
E. O’Brien Murray, a spokesman for Jack Martins, the GOP choice to replace Mangano, said Curran’s pledge only continues her “hypocrisy tour.”
“Maybe she should have taken down the signs with her name on them before she claims she is against them,” Murray said in an email.
But Curran’s campaign says she has never been asked for approval to put her name on a sign.
Murray also rejected Maragos’ proposals, saying he “wants to make already over taxed Nassau County residents responsible” for funding political materials.
Maragos said there are more pressing issues than signs to be addressed.
“It’s astounding to consider that during a time when Nassau County taxpayers face record levels of corruption, failing public transportation and high property taxes, the most substantive thing Laura Curran can talk about is signage,” he said in a statement.
A Lavine spokesman declined to comment for this story.