Why Nassau Needs a Strong, Independent Inspector General’s Office
By Delia DeRiggi-Whitton
As a legislator who served during the height of corruption in Nassau County and witnessed the indictment of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, I know firsthand how important it is to have mechanisms in place to protect taxpayer money from the pitfalls of waste and fraud.
During the past last few years, I have worked closely with my Minority Caucus colleagues to strengthen the integrity of Nassau’s procurement system and make the process of awarding contracts as fair and secure as possible. We did so by increasing the rigor of our contract reviews; requiring vendors to submit the names of all principals and any political contributions they have made; and mandating the disclosure of any violations an applicant may have been issued. Soon after, we created the Office of the Inspector General and appointed the County’s first Inspector General, Jodi Franzese – a proud moment in my legislative career.
Operating as an independent official, the Inspector General and their team promote transparency and increase the accountability of County operations by reviewing each contract to detect and prevent waste, fraud, and the abuse of taxpayer money in Nassau County procurement.
Continued support for the Inspector General’s office is critical to further ensuring the integrity of our procurement system – one that encompasses hundreds of millions of dollars each year. However, it appears that there are efforts being made to weaken this crucial County government watchdog.
After her four-year term expired at the end of 2022, the Inspector General worked for months without being reappointed by the Legislature, placing her and the entire office into an uncertain posture. Without the protection that being formally appointed by a bipartisan, 13-vote supermajority provides, the Inspector General’s ability to achieve its mission of serving as an independent watchdog is inherently weakened.
That is why the Minority Caucus introduced legislation in April to extend the Inspector General’s contract through 2026. Unfortunately, the Majority rejected our proposal, and the Inspector General recently announced she will be leaving her position effective June 1.
Preserving and enhancing ethics safeguards like the Inspector General’s office will not only protect taxpayer money from waste, fraud, and abuse, it will also deter future bad actors and help to ensure that elected officials have all the information they need to reach informed decisions. The Minority Caucus will continue to fight tirelessly to dramatically improve the procurement process to make it more transparent, inclusive, and cost-effective – and it is essential for Nassau County to continue down this path.
Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, of Glen Cove, represents Nassau County’s 11th Legislative District.