Written by Delia DeRiggi-Whitton Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00
This week I would simply like to share the fact that again I have asked Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos to appear before the body meant to provide oversight over your tax dollars, the Nassau County Legislature. Many have hoped you forgot about Superstorm Sandy cleanup work done at your expense which directed $70 million to County Executive Mangano’s campaign contributors. I handed this letter to each legislator – on the record - at Monday’s public session:
Dear Presiding Officer Gonsalves and Legislator Nicolello:
All of our members must fulfill our responsibilities as legislators by demanding meaningful oversight of the millions of dollars in contracted work that was awarded and paid in connection with Superstorm Sandy cleanup. I strongly believe that we are failing our constituents if we continue to simply rubber stamp the actions of the executive branch on this matter of critical importance to the residents of Nassau County.
As you are both very much aware, I have consistently expressed concern on behalf of myself and our constituents over the cleanup and debris removal contracts that County Executive Mangano’s administration issued last year in response to Sandy. I have stated repeatedly that I believe we as a Legislature need to examine how the county awarded the contracts and how the contracted work was monitored and paid.
I have stated my position to you and our fellow legislators during numerous legislative sessions. I have reiterated my views in letters to each of you, to County Executive Mangano, to Comptroller George Maragos, and through FOIL’s to the Nassau County Departments of Emergency Management, Purchasing, Public Works and the Comptroller’s Office. I have even filed proposed legislation that would enable us to better understand Nassau’s emergency spending process and answer many of the questions I have raised – legislation which has been permitted to languish in the Clerk’s Office.
Today I am specifically writing to again insist that Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appear before the Legislature to address the many unresolved issues which remain in connection with the huge amount of public funds that have been committed to the Sandy clean-up process. We still lack a definitive explanation of the County’s procedure for vetting and paying for Sandy-related work. There also continue to be serious concerns about whether the Sandy contractors have been required to maintain sufficient insurance coverage to adequately protect the County from liability arising out of their contractual performance. Indeed, I understand that the Comptroller went so far as to hold up Sandy payments because of insurance questions. These are just a few of the issues which must be explored.
When I first requested the Comptroller’s appearance many months ago, I was assured by each of you - on the record during session - that he would appear and discuss Sandy contracts as soon as he concluded his own analysis and investigation and issued his report. That report was issued almost two full months ago, on August 1, 2013. However, the Comptroller has yet to appear before the Legislature to explain and justify his conclusions that Sandy debris removal was properly performed. I am disappointed that you have not lived up to your public assurances.
I am therefore compelled to once again ask that in your capacities as Presiding Officer and Chair of the Finance Committee, you formally request the Comptroller to appear before our oversight body. It is in the interest of all 19 legislators that we perform our duty to voters and to taxpayers, by demanding our own oversight of county spending. Our government cannot function properly if we abdicate our role to provide the necessary checks and balances on executive branch expenditures.
Finally, as we are now analyzing a proposed budget for next year, there are numerous related issues, most importantly, the deficit that could result from rejection of Sandy claims by FEMA. I understand that to date, we have only received a relatively small fraction of the reimbursement we were supposedly seeking. I believe we are remiss to not ask why, especially from the office responsible for paying out claims.
Accordingly, please confirm that Comptroller Maragos will be at the October 21, 2013 Legislative session to address these important issues.