Nassau County comptroller goes to work

Jack Schnirman says expect investigations

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New Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman is settling into his second floor office at 240 Old Country Road in Mineola, and said he has begun to understand what it will take to do the job effectively.

He’s already noticed that there are only 14 auditors when there used to be twice as many. In comparison, Suffolk County has 35 auditors in their comptroller’s office. With a starting yearly salary of $24,000,

Schnirman said that employees did not stay in the job long. “We see our role as a line of defense against corruption and we will be aggressively investigating,” he said in his office on Jan. 11.

In his first few days in office, he found that the technology, especially the software is “decades out of date” and work takes much longer as systems can’t communicate with each other. Although, beginning in 2009, there was a $30 million update, the county has nothing to show for it, Schnirman added. The computer hardware is better, he said.

The new comptroller, a baseball fan, said he wants to be the county’s “fiscal umpire.” “For too long the county has been purposely opaque and hard to follow,” he said. “Our role is calling balls and strikes and telling it like it is.”

One of his campaign promises was to issue a scorecard on how the county is meeting its financial goals and he expects to have graphs on the comptroller website explaining the fiscal status. “I called the staff together and handed them a game plan on what we are going to do together,” Schnirman said “We have to get it done.”

He plans on using what are called general accepted accounting principles, a common set of accounting principles, standards and procedures used for financial reporting. “We agree with NIFA (the Nassau Interim Finance Authority that oversees the county’s fiscal affairs) that they are helpful for county use, and the more general standards of accounting we use the faster we will reach our goal.”

Because of a Newsday report that found more than 100 county political figures had a total of at least 141 relatives in taxpayer-funded jobs since 2014, Schnirman said his office will conduct what he called a nepotism audit.

This, he said, would do a comprehensive review of hiring family members of elected officials and political leaders in jobs paid for by tax dollars; gather detailed cost information, including salary and benefits; review situations where family members supervise or have the power to approve raises to relatives; and assess how people were hired, how positions were advertised, how many applicants were considered and what criteria was used when hiring employees. “We look to improve the policies and make recommendations,” Schnirman said.

Another campaign platform of his was the “Report It, Reform It” program, which collects tips on possible waste, fraud or inefficiency. Tips can be sent to ReportItReformIt@nassaucountyny.gov.

The county comptroller issues two budget reports, one in June and one in September. “You can regularly expect to hear from us, we will keep everyone up to date on our progress, we are the eyes and the ears for the public,” Schnirman said.