With Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano set to go to trial in January for alleged extortion, bribery and fraud, the topic of corruption is on the mind of voters who are looking for his replacement. Democratic nominee Laura Curran has made ending corruption a focal point of her campaign.
“I believe there needs to be a total overhaul,” Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, said during an interview with Blank Slate Media. “There is a culture of corruption and I think it’s kind of baked in.”
She offered several solutions, starting with the appointment of an independent inspector general, a position held my many of Curran’s fellow Democrats in the county Legislature. She said that people she appointed would be hired based on “what they know, not who they know.” Curran promised not to appoint anyone who donated or raised money for her campaign. She also would not allow appointees to hold leadership positions in political parties.
“I want there to be no question why they are there,” she said. “They’re there because they’re qualified, not because they can help me politically.”
Another area Curran wants to target is the rewarding of contracts. She said that contractors who do business with the county should be limited to $1,000 contributions to county campaigns. She would also have all unsolicited bids put online for transparency.
Limiting contracts would also be one way to balance the budget, Curran said. She wants to limit the number of outside contracts and to bring that work in house, saying that this would save money and give the government more oversight of its programs.
“I think the most glaring example of how that hasn’t happened in recent years was the Armor contract at the jail,” she said, referring to the medical vendor faulted for three deaths at the Nassau jail earlier this year.
Another way to help balance the budget would be to fix the assessment process in Nassau. The first thing Curran said she would do is hired a credentialed assessor.
“This administration could not be bothered to hire one,” she said.
She said doing assessments annually “should be the goal” but at the very least they should be done once every three years.
Throughout most of the campaign, county corruption and finances have been the dominant issues. But immigration policy has come to the forefront recently due to the actions of the MS-13 gang on Long Island. Curran said that she would not have the county serve as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
She said, however, that if someone was the victim of or witness to a crime, their immigration status should be irrelevant, which is the current policy of the Nassau County police.
“I think it’s a great way to build trust,” Curran said.
With regards to gerrymandering, Curran said she would support an independent commission to limit the practice. With the districts drawn as they currently are, though, Republicans are likely to control the Legislature in 2018. Curran said she would be able to reach across the aisle to get things done should the opposition control the Legislature.
“I have been independent, I have bucked my party at times,” she said. “I think I have a base level of respect for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle… I think there is a real desire for us to get stuff done.”
When comparing herself to her Republican opponent, Jack Martins, a former state senator, she acknowledged that he had experience in Nassau County. But she said what the county did not need was more of the same.
“I don’t think my opponent is the change agent we need right now,” she said. “If we’re looking for someone to really make our government worthy of respect and accountable, I think I am the candidate to do that.”