Nassau drags its feet on releasing disparity study: Solages

Nassau drags its feet on releasing disparity study: Solages
Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages calls upon Nassau County Executive Bruce A. Blakeman to release the results of the disparity study. (Courtesy of Nassau County Government)

Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream) sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman Jan. 29 imploring him to immediately release the results of Nassau County’s procurement disparity study.

Nassau and Suffolk County conducted a disparity study jointly to determine how many county contracts are being awarded to businesses owned by women, minorities and disabled veterans.

The study was set to begin in 2020, but due to the pandemic the start date was pushed to the summer of 2021. Both counties commissioned Mason Tillman Associates to conduct the study.

While Suffolk County released its final findings from the study Dec. 18, Nassau County has yet to release its portion of the study.

Nassau County has not completed a disparity study since 2003, according to Solages, ranking member of the Legislature’s Minority Affairs Committee.

“[Community members] have a right to know how the county contracting process works,” said Solages. “It is unfortunate that Suffolk County released their results and Nassau County is still in the dark.”

The Suffolk County results revealed that only about 1% of county dollars go to women, minority or disabled veteran business owners, according to the county. The study also found that more than 95% of professional service contracts went to businesses owned by white men between 2015 and 2019.

Following the release of the Suffolk County study findings, the Suffolk Legislature began pursuing corrective actions. Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who served  until December 2023, announced the creation of a new task force in his last days in office.

This new task force focuses on maximizing participation of businesses owned by underrepresented groups in the county’s procurement process.

Bellone said the new unit’s goal is for 16% of Suffolk County contracts to go to businesses owned by women, minorities or disabled veterans.

New York State has a goal for MWBE state contracts. In 2014, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the goal to 30% of all state contracts going to MWBEs. In 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that New York State exceeded the target of awarding more than a third of state contracts to MWBEs.

Solages said that releasing the Nassau County study results is a matter of accountability. He is the son of Haitian immigrants and a Nassau County legislator representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District.

Solages believes the Nassau County results are being withheld by Blakeman. He said he expects the Nassau County study results to be similar to Suffolk County’s findings.

“Based upon information and belief, [Blakeman is withholding the results] because the results show that there is a complete lack of contracting in a manner that is equitable for all residents and community members in Nassau County,” said Solages. “It is not something we should be proud of.”

Solages called for the Nassau County results to be released in order to start addressing the lack of county contracts going to MWBEs. He supports the creation of a Nassau task force similar to the one developed by Bellone in Suffolk County and said it is important to set timelines and goals like the 30% benchmark put down by Cuomo.

“The fact that we’ve delayed releasing these results — it further increases the perception that Nassau County is not a place for all communities to do business in,” said Solages. “The aim of the disparity study is not to just say hey, gotcha! It’s to improve our society.”

The legislator is worried that minority and women-owned businesses will be discouraged from setting up shop in Nassau County, which he said can negatively affect the county’s gross domestic product.

Solages characterized local government leaders as “hypocritical” for not releasing the results of the study.

“For leaders to [say] Happy Black History Month. Oh, I believe in Dr. King … but not do anything about [the disparity issue] when they have the full capacity and power to do something about that — you tell me what you think that person who does that should be called,” Solages said. “You know, they always love our veterans, you know, would do anything for our veterans. Well, you’re not even giving them a fair shot in the county contracting process.”

Above all, Solages is concerned about the immediate release of the Nassau disparity study. He said people would commend Blakeman for making it public and are smart enough to know that the county executive is not responsible for the results.

Efforts to reach Blakeman were unavailing.

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