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11th Hour Contracts A Slap in the Face to Taxpayers

Spano Misusing Board of A&C to Handcuff Incoming Administration

12/1/2009 4:25:14 PM

Westchester County Legislator George Oros (R/Cortlandt) asserted today exiting County Executive Andrew Spano was using the Board of Acquisition & Contract to ram through expensive multi-year contracts before his successor takes office on January 1.

 

“In the 11th hour of his term, Spano is utilizing what little power he has left to kick in the teeth of taxpayers,” Oros charged. “Unless it affects the safety, health or welfare of the public, no contracts should be executed until Rob Astorino takes over the reins of the county and his team has sufficient time to research the requests being made.”

 

Oros, who for years has called for the reform of the Board of Acquisition & Contract, pointed to the November 24 A&C agenda that included a handful of multi-million dollar and multi-year contracts.

 

Contracts included: $2.7 million to enter into agreements with various law firms to perform “of counsel” legal services; more than $12 million for Westhab to operate homeless shelters; more than $4 million for security systems integration at the county jail; and a contract to build a controversial fence at Playland.

 

Oros wrote a letter to Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan, one of the three members of the A&C board (the other two are Spano and Public Works Commissioner Ralph Butler), asking that 12 items on the November 24 agenda be held over, and 11 were, but they will likely be “rubber stamped” in the near future.

 

“It’s obvious what is being done,” Oros said. “Spano and his administration are trying to tie Mr. Astorino’s hands as much as possible to make it that much harder to achieve the goals the overwhelming majority of voters chose him to accomplish. This type of action not only hampers the new administration but hurts the taxpayers.”

 

In addition, Oros alleged that some contracts were “political payback,” citing campaign contributions to Spano’s failed re-election attempt by several of the vendors.

 

Coupled with the “phony revenue and other land mines planted” in the Spano 2010 budget, Oros labeled the Spano actions “very disappointing” and “demonstrates distain for the taxpayers.”

 

“This is not the way a county executive who has served for 12 years should go out the door,” Oros said.
 
In 2002, 2007 and 2008, the Republican Conference introduced a variety of reform measures to change the current A&C system, where millions of dollars of lengthy contracts are approved without any debate, discussion or vote of the Board of Legislators.

 

To curtail the blatant rubberstamping, Oros and his GOP colleagues over the years have suggested any contracts of leases of five years or more, including renewals, must be approved by the full Legislature.

 

In addition, they have recommended the Public Works commissioner be replaced on the A&C board by the budget director; each meeting be electronically recorded; and no emergency contract can exceed three years.

 

“Voters spoke loud and clear in the last election that they’re tired of business as usual in Westchester County government,” Oros said. “For a dozen years these shenanigans have been going on at A&C. It’s time for Mr. Spano to step aside and let a breath of fresh air come in.”

 

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