Our Views: A tale of two governments

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The Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County have in recent months been called on to respond to problems in government operations.

Their responses couldn’t be more different.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and the Town Council responded promptly to the Gerard Terry scandal, by committing to enforcing a 20-year-old town law requiring financial disclosure reports from people who work for town boards and expanding disclosure requirement for relatives of people employed by the town who also work for the town.

Bosworth had ordered a review of town policies and procedures after a Newsday report revealed last month that Terry, the former town Demoractic leader who until recently was the attorney for the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals and special counsel for the town attorney, owes more than $1.4 million in federal and state back taxes, has been party to five lawsuits and let his attorney registration lapse for three years. He has since been charged with tax evasion.

The North Hempstead ethics board is also investigating Concetta Terry, Gerard Terry’s wife and a deputy town clerk, for allegedly omitting her husband’s tax debts from her financial disclosure records. 

The town also announced the departures last week of Solid Waste Management Authority Executive Director Igor Sikiric and former Solid Waste Management Authority Deputy Executive Director John Peters.

Their exits come nearly three months after a former administrative assistant, Helen McCann, was arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $98,000 from the authority by pocketing cash collected in waste drop-off fees.

The town termed the departure of Sikiric a “separation” and Peters a “resignation.” They say tomato, we say cleaning house.

The town still has some work to do in bringing town practices into the 21st Century and eliminating cash collections. The Town of North Hempstead is a local government, not a nightclub. We’d also like to see a review of town policies to ensure that relatives of town employees don’t have an advantage in getting a town job.

But overall the comparison between the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County couldn’t be starker.

Rather than support reform, Managano and Republican legislators appear to be doing as little as possible to change the county’s contracting system.

The Legislature did pass a law in December requiring companies who have been awarded contracts to list all donations to candidates and campaigns for county executive, county clerk, comptroller, district attorney or county legislator.

But the law doesn’t include political committees and local clubs, which spend hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting candidates.

As county Democrats have pointed out, Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker signed a $12 million storm cleanup contract with VIP Splash Waterways recovery group — on the same day in August 2014 the firm gave money to the Hicksville Republican Club, for which Walker is the executive director. Walker and that contract are reportedly the subject of a federal investigation.

Mangano and county Republicans have also repeatedly resisted the recommendation of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state board with control over county finances, as well as county Democrats, for an inspector general appointed by an independent panel to investigate potential corruption and misconduct in the awarding of contracts.

Instead, Mangano appointed former New York City health department contract officer Robert Cleary as the county’s first procurement compliance director and hired Donna Myrill from the Queens district attorney’s office as a commissioner of investigations.

The problem is that both people were hired by Mangano and could be fired by Mangano, the same person who hired Walker. 

The Legislature’s reforms followed an investigation by Singas that found “troubling problems” in the county contracting process, including no requirements for vendors to disclose subsidiary companies,  criminal convictions, political contributions or whether a vendor is barred from government contracts in other places.

Singas’ investigation followed the indictments of former state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on federal corruption charges, including influencing the awarding of a Nassau County contract to a firm that hired his son, Adam. 

Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were later both found guilty of political corruption and  last week Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison and his son, six and a half.

Still Mangano and county Republicans resist the reforms needed to address the problem and restore public confidence.

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