In wake of Nassau County corruption case, bill would ban IDA consulting by local officials

Senator Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, has introduced legislation that prohibits state and local government authorities from paying elected officials for legal or consulting work with an Industrial Development Agency or economic assistance corporation.

The bill seeks to end elected officials using their positions to “enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers.” This bill follows the March 31 arrest of Hempstead Town Board member Edward Ambrosino for allegedly failing to pay income taxes on money earned from Nassau County jobs.

While serving as a Town of Hempstead council member, Ambrosino was allegedly paid $1.5 million for serving as general counsel to the Nassau County IDA — income he allegedly never reported on financial disclosure reports.

He pleaded not guilty and is expected back in court this week.

“Corruption has infected every level of government, and we need to ensure a level playing field so that taxpayers know that officials are looking out for the public, not themselves,” said Kaminsky, a member of the Senate’s Local Government Committee. “My legislation will prevent elected officials from profiting off of IDAs at the expense of their constituents. Political connections should not determine who gets a job. When people are hired who have conflicts of interest, or are not the best-qualified candidate, a grave injustice to taxpayers occurs that must be rectified.”

Sen. Todd Kaminsky

Kaminsky’s legislation (S.5695) seeks to change the current system, which he says, “seems to allow for a preference in appointments of consultants or attorneys who are politically connected, as opposed to suitably qualified to advise the IDAs on issues that impact taxpayers in the jurisdiction.”

Specifically, it prohibits public officeholders and party committee leaders from collecting consulting fees from state and local authorities either directly or through companies in which they have at least 10 percent ownership.

Violating the new law would be punishable by forfeiture of any gains related to the prohibited action, as well as a civil penalty of up to $40,000.

According to Kaminsky’s bill memo, “Elected officials can have significant influence over state and local revenues and spending plans, and can have access to agencies that private companies may not. It is time for them to choose whether they want to serve the public or private clients.”

The bill was introduced in the Senate Finance Committee on April 26. There is no Assembly version, as of press time.