Written by Delia DeRiggi-Whitton Thursday, 22 August 2013 00:00
I want to submit a short note to my constituents who are undoubtedly upset over recent news reports, in which Comptroller George Maragos states that all tree cutting in Welwyn and other county areas was completely necessary. The short version of his statement is that all trees needed to come down. Plenty people have raised a case to the contrary.
Since Mr. Maragos has put out this report seeking to clear himself and the candidate for County Executive with whom he will be sharing a party line on the ballot this November, Edward Mangano, I need to respond.
First, to me, the report raises more questions than it answers. It says that the comptroller sent auditors out to the sites. Were they certified arborists or his accountants? Further, if I read the report correctly, it suggests that “independent monitors” said the work was OK, therefore it was OK to the comptroller. My understanding is that the monitors were hired by Mangano – some may be campaign contributors, possibly even the sister of the Public Works Commissioner – therefore they are not necessarily independent. The comptroller’s office is actually supposed to be the independent office that verifies what the county pays. If they are relying on these companies that the county hired, I have an issue.
Second, I met with the comptroller’s staff earlier this year to inquire into his process for reviewing and verifying the “emergency” tree work.
When we visited Comptroller Maragos’ office to do this review, my Legislative Caucus attorney, my finance director and I were not satisfied with what we saw.
We have spent subsequent months seeking follow-up information with so little success that we were forced into a prolonged Freedom of Information or “FOIL” process, which is still ongoing to this day. Legislators should not have to resort to FOILing – government offices are obligated to share information. If everything is so clear cut and above board, I don’t understand why there is not more transparency, and why Maragos’ office would avoid basic inquiries and force a legal back-and-forth. (Just this week, I had to appeal the comptroller’s denial of certain information, including the actual documentation Comptroller Maragos used to verify that all tree work was necessary and was billed correctly.)
I have much more to say that will soon be relayed to you. I certainly have questions about the Comptroller’s report that I am looking into now. For today, I simply want to assure my constituents that my office is still deep in the process of investigating the issues covered in the comptroller’s report, which reflect the tree cutting ordered by County Executive Mangano.
Also still investigating this entire issue of Nassau County’s post-Sandy debris work are the Nassau County District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General.