Jack Martins rolls out ethics reform campaign

Stephen Romano

Republican Nassau County Executive candidate Jack Martins rolled out his ethics reform plan on Tuesday, calling for a way to remove a corrupt county executive from office.

“Ethics reforms are simple in my view: We need transparency, we need independent enforcement, we need accountability, but we also need disclosure,” Martins said at a news conference in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.

Martins said he held his news conference outside the building because Roosevelt was “perhaps the greatest anti-corruption politician in the history of the country.”

Martins, a former state senator who represented the 7th District, said it is important to restore public confidence in local government.

“If we’re going to tackle the heavy lifting and the hard issues like the financial issues affecting the county, the assessment issues affecting the county, the issues of public safety and gangs and heroin and the opioid epidemic and the water safety issues, we first and foremost have to deal with ethics reform,” Martins said.

Martins’ plan includes seeking to add a provision in the county charter to allow removal of the county executive, independent enforcement of the county’s ethics laws and more examination of conflicts of interest.

“As we begin a new chapter for Nassau County, enacting comprehensive ethics reform must be the first thing that we do,” Martins said. “Because reforming the way government functions affects everything that will occur after, enacting this reform package will be the first thing I do as county executive. Nassau County families have a right to honest government and we will ensure they have it.”

Martins said his plan is not a Democratic or Republican way to restore public confidence, but rather “the right way.”

Last week, Democratic candidate George Maragos unveiled his plan for anti-corruption reforms.

Maragos announced a package of proposed anti-corruption reforms, among them a reconstitution of the Nassau Board of Elections that the sitting county comptroller says would save $7 million annually.

“The Martins plan falls well short of what is required to end corruption in Nassau County,” Maragos said. “We must ban all vendor political contributions, enact term limits and implement public campaign financing.”

Democratic candidate Laura Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, rolled out a reform package in January and has continued to put out different ethics reform proposals.

Last week, she said she would keep her name off signs and promotional material in the county — a move she said current Republican County Executive Edward Mangano abused for political purposes.

Philip Shulman, Curran’s communications director, said, “How can we trust Jack Martins to fix the mess in Nassau County when in Albany he stifled ethics reforms from becoming law, even after Dean Skelos was indicted on federal corruption charges?”

Skelos, a Republican who was the state Senate majority leader, was convicted in a federal corruption case.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who is also a Democratic candidate for county executive, introduced legislation that would prohibit political candidates from using campaign funds for criminal defense in federal indictment cases.

Mangano, a Republican who was indicted on federal corruption charges, has not yet said if he will seek a third term.

A spokesman for Lavine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his plan, Martins said he will seek to amend the county charter so the county executive can be removed by “vote of a bipartisan special legislative committee, and by super majority vote of the county Legislature.” Amending the charter would require action by the county Legislature.

“It makes no sense that there’s a legislative process for removing the president of the United States but not the county executive in Nassau County,” Martins said.

After Mangano was indicted, Martins, along with other Republican politicians, called for the two-term county executive to resign.

“More than six months ago, I called for a change in county leadership to restore the public’s trust in county government.  A recall provision gives Nassau’s residents the tools they need to keep government in check between elections when circumstances arise,” Martins said

The plan would also require both the Nassau County commissioner of investigations and the county’s procurement director to be confirmed by a majority of the county Legislature.

Martins’ plan also included a revamped ethics board, making it bipartisan, with members serving five-year staggered terms after being appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the county Legislature.

“We must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to public corruption,” Martins said.

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