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Mon, 27 Sep 2010

Vote on Nassau breast-feeding counseling contract delayed - Newsday

Vote on Nassau breast-feeding counseling contract delayed
Published: September 27, 2010 9:59 PM
By SID CASSESE sid.cassese@newsday.com

A breast-feeding counseling contract awarded to Planned Parenthood of Nassau County was left in jeopardy Monday when the county legislature's Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt said he was not ready to put it before lawmakers for a vote.

The group had won the $131,000 contract from the county's Health Department and officials said it needed to be approved before an Oct. 1 deadline. But Schmitt said he wasn't going to be bulldozed by health officials who waited until last week to send the contract to the legislature.

"It was not received in a timely fashion, and it will be reviewed when we review it," Schmitt said. "Do they think that this legislature was going to blindly go along with the Health Department?"

He also said he would not put it on the agenda until he found out why the county-supported hospital in East Meadow did not get the contract.

But Legis. David Denenberg, (D-Merrick), told Schmitt he was wrong about the timing - that the proposal had been clocked in with the clerk of the legislature on Aug. 31, and that there were numerous contracts on the day's agenda clocked in on Sept. 17.

Schmitt did not respond.

Democratic legislators asked if not only the $131,000 would be in jeopardy but the entire $3 million in Women, Infants and Children grants. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) called for an administration official to clarify that issue. Schmitt refused to make that request.

JoAnn Smith, chief executive of Planned Parenthood, expressed disappointment with the Republicans and later said the counseling program was "an essential part of the entire WIC grant."

Later, Mary Ellen Laurain, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said that failure to meet that deadline, did indeed jeopardize the $3 million.

"But our commissioner, who had some concerns about the delay, reached out to the state Health Department and was able to get a 30-day extension."


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