This is in response to a letter Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves sent to the residents of Sea Cliff on July 1, which contained an incomplete and misleading version of the Sea Cliff Sewer Collection System issue. The Presiding Officer insinuated that I have somehow been blocking the project. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s be perfectly clear, I want the sewer In Sea Cliff and my office has been the driving force in getting the county to back this plan. I just want to insure that tax payers’ money is being spent wisely.
By way of background, the project involves connecting the sewer line already placed on Sea Cliff Avenue to the Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plant. I requested this project since the original plan called for the developer of a condo project in Glenwood Landing to pay for this gravity line. Because this condo project is now delayed indefinitely, I successfully pushed to have this project added to the county’s capital plan. However, before the tax payers pay $4 million to complete this environmentally sensitive project, I must be confident that it is going to be carried out by the most qualified contractor. We don’t need another vendor that is selected because of its political connections. That is why I am insisting that an independent official (known as an “Inspector General”) be appointed to oversee county contracting before giving the authority to fund this project. The sewer project is too important and our tax dollars too valuable to be left in the hands of a potentially unqualified contractor.
As anyone who has been following the news understands, we have good reason to be concerned about county contracts. Since I have been in office, here are just a few examples of questionable contracting by the county:
• AbTech: Arizona based environmental company was given a $12 million contract to install antimicrobial sponge technology in storm-water drainpipes despite not being the low bidder. Former NY State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam Skelos were convicted last year on federal corruption charges in connection with the award of the AbTech contract. Dean Skelos was determined to have used his political power to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars for his son in no-show jobs and direct payments related to AbTech. During the Skelos trial, a high county official admitted to be under federal investigation for allegedly steering contracts to political contributors.
• BluChip Marketing: The Hauppauge-based marketing firm was awarded two no-bid county contracts in 2012 to promote Nassau’s film industry, despite reports that many county employees objected to the contract as unnecessary, as the County already had marketing vendors. Both contracts were just under the $25,000 threshold that needs legislative approval.
• Looks Great Services: This tree removal company has been questioned for cutting down an excess of trees post-Sandy in protected areas such as Welwyn Preserve. They are also being investigated by and found responsible to pay a penalty by Suffolk County for failure to pay their employees prevailing wages.
These are blatant examples of how taxpayer money can be wasted. That is why I want the Sea Cliff sewer project done the right way, with the correct oversight as to who is awarded this contract. That is why an independent Inspector General must make sure that the most qualified contractor is awarded the project and not the most politically influential contractor.
As a caucus, we are attempting to have a referendum to change the charter regarding contract approval, allowing the Inspector General the ability to oversee procurement in order to protect taxpayer money. We have made many attempts to convince the administration that changes need to be made to restore integrity to the procurement process. These attempts have been consistently blocked, which is why we are now bringing this effort directly to the people by way of a referendum next November. We would even consider a Procurement Officer that had the protection of a contract, so that he or she could have their position protected, regardless of their decision regarding each contract.
I would appreciate any support regarding our efforts for contract reform, and ask that you would urge Gonsalves at 516-571-6213 to stop blocking contract reform. As always, please contact my office with feedback or questions at 516-571-6211.
Nassau County Legislator, LD11