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Long Beach files $2.4M suit against two top former officials

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The City of Long Beach has filed a $2.4 million lawsuit, alleging fraud, conspiracy and breach of duty, against former city manager Jack Schnirman, now Nassau County Comptroller, and Robert Agostisi, the city's former acting city manager and counsel.

The suit was filed Friday in Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola by the Hauppauge law firm Ingerman Smith. Officials for the firm could not be reached.

John McNally, executive assistant to the Long Beach city manager, said, "We don't comment on pending litigation."

According to court papers, the city is demanding the $2.4 million in repayment from the two, saying they cost Long Beach at least that much because of their alleged unlawful actions.

Long Beach is asking for a judgment against Schnirman of $1.5 million and "an accounting of all monies taken" by him from 2012 through 2018.

Schnirman last year repaid the city about $53,000 in money Long Beach said was an overpayment. Schnirman was city manager from 2012 to 2018, when he was elected to the comptroller's office.

The second lawsuit against Agostisi asks for a judgment against him of "no less" than $889,985, contending the city lost at least that amount because of Agostisi's alleged "violation of the public trust."

Rick Ostrove, of the Garden City law firm Leeds Brown, said in a statement, "The lawsuit is totally meritless. It is a misuse of taxpayer fees and seems to be an effort to distract from the city's issues, especially those surrounding the Superblock."

He was referring to a plan by Garden City developer Engel Burman to build hundreds of high-priced condominiums and rental units on vacant property near the boardwalk. The developers are negotiating a payment-in-lieu of taxes deal for the project. The land has been vacant for decades and is an eyesore for the city, but some residents object to a PILOT program.

Brett Spielberg, a spokesman for Schnirman, said, “Jack is not going to be distracted by frivolous lawsuits and political vendettas that waste taxpayer dollars. We are focused on the work Nassau residents elected us to do.”

Long Beach has been rocked by a payout scandal since 2018.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office last year examined six years worth of “separation” payouts given to City of Long Beach union and non-union employees as part of a comprehensive audit of the city’s finances, according to city officials. He issued a series of recommendations for reform.

The audit came as questions continued to swirl over payments made to former city manager Schnirman, who resigned with $108,000, as well as a number of other non-union employees.

Officials with knowledge of the payouts have said that since 2014, Schnirman, who earned $173,800 a year as city manager, allowed a number of non-union employees to collect up to 100 percent of their accrued sick time based on an interpretation of the Code of Ordinances that dates back to 1997. Additionally, union and non-union employees were also able to collect up to 75 vacation days since the late 1990s, but the code was never updated to reflect that accrued time for non-union workers, officials said.

Not including the payouts in 2017-18, 32 employees had also received drawdowns since 2012 of their accumulated sick, vacation and other unused time while continuing to work for the city — the majority of them CSEA members — a practice that past administrations followed, officials said.

The CSEA contract states that members can be paid for accrued terminal time while still employed, though Schnirman and past city managers allegedly allowed both union and non-union employees to collect sick, vacation and, for CSEA members, compensatory time, a city official had told the Herald.