Long Beach City Council President Anissa Moore pledged to seek full restitution for any overpayments to current and former employees in the wake of a scathing audit of the city’s payout practices.
At a news conference at Kennedy Plaza led by Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin on Tuesday, Moore called the separation payouts “an abuse of the public's trust” following the release last week of a draft audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office — obtained by the Herald — found that former City Manager Jack Schnirman and nine other current and former employees were overpaid by more than $500,000 for accumulated sick and vacation time in the 2017 fiscal year — including a $108,000 payment to Schnirman after he was elected county comptroller in 2017.
“This problem stands over 25 years and didn't just start yesterday — this has been going on for a very long time,” Moore said of the city’s payout practices. “The residents carry the burden. The City Council is committed to seeking restitution –– we want all of our monies.”
Moore, a Democrat who is running on a Republican coalition ticket for re-election this year, said after the news conference that she was not speaking for other members of the council.
Clavin, meanwhile, called on the town’s Board of Ethics to open an investigation into Long Beach’s former commissioner of public works, Jim LaCarrubba, who is now Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s chief of staff. Clavin said that LaCarrubba received two questionable payouts when he resigned as commissioner of public works and later as the city’s director of operations. He also called on Gillen to fire her chief of staff.
Last year, the Herald reported that some City Council members said they believed LaCarrubba, who began working for the city in 2012, would remain in a part-time capacity after he resigned as DPW commissioner — and received a $65,000 separation payout — at an annual salary of $40,000. However, records showed that he remained a full-time employee from Sept. 8, 2016 — the day he resigned as public works commissioner — through Oct. 14, 2017, with an annual salary of $130,000, according to his separation payout form, obtained by the Herald through a Freedom of Information request. When LaCarrubba left the city employment, he was paid out $21,000 for unused vacation, sick and personal time as a full-time employee for the previous 13 months, based on his salary as director of operations, even though he was only in the post for roughly three months.
“There are many questions surrounding Jim LaCarrubba, and I think it is appropriate for the Town of Hempstead Board of Ethics to investigate the matter,” Clavin, a Republican running against Gillen for town supervisor this year, said in a news release. “I believe that the Board of Ethics should explore pertinent town records to ensure that he has been forthright in his reporting requirements with the town, as well as to protect the town’s taxpayers from any exposure to overpayments to Mr. LaCarrubba, currently or in the future. At the same time, I am calling on Supervisor Gillen to dismiss Mr. LaCarrubba. The chief of staff has to be above reproach and avoid even the appearance of any impropriety.”
After Clavin first called for his resignation last month, LaCarrubba said in a statement that he stood by his record of “commitment and achievement as a public servant,” and called a previous news conference held by Clavin a desperate campaign tactic.
In a statement, Gillen’s campaign manager, Michael Ousley, said, “The receiver’s claims are meritless and designed to distract the public from the ongoing Town of Hempstead corruption scandal involving the Nassau County Republican chair and fellow top Republican officials.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is investigating the city’s payout practices, and Moore said that the council planned to meet with her this week in an effort to expedite the probe, which began in April 2018.
Clavin again called on Schnirman — who also began working for the city in 2012 — to resign and return that money he was paid. The draft audit — which both the state and city said is not yet complete — showed that Schnirman was overpaid $52,780 for accrued sick and vacation time.
“The Nassau County Comptroller is supposed to be the taxpayer's watchdog and now he is being watched,” Clavin said.
Schnirman, who said he did not sign his payout forms, said that he welcomed “any and all professional reviews of how the City of Long Beach has processed and compensated earned leave obligations over a period of many years and several administrations.” He said he did not calculate or process his payment because “that would be inappropriate,” adding that his records were submitted to the payroll department.
“If a professional review shows the City of Long Beach made any error in my payment, I would seek to return any funds paid in error, as I trust anyone would do,” Schnirman said in a statement last month. “I’m not going to get involved in the political games of trying to undercut a professional review.”