Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sanitary 6: Full-Time Pay For Part-Time Work

District Residents Pay More for Garbage Pick-up and Disposal
Than for Police Patrols; Lax Financial Controls Cited
An audit of Hempstead’s Sanitary District #6 has found that the district’s refuse collectors routinely work about 25 hours a week or less, but are paid full-time salaries, Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman said today. The audit also found that financial controls in the district were nearly non-existent, with no timekeeping for the district’s 200-plus employees and no competitive bidding for goods and services puchased.

“District 6, with a payroll exceeding $10 million, does not require employees to use timeclocks or timesheets, even though their contract says they are paid on an hourly basis,” Comptroller Weitzman said. “As a result of this and many other wasteful practices uncovered by our audit, the district’s customers pay considerably more for garbage services than for local police patrols.”
District 6 residents and businesses in 2004 paid an average tax levy of $798 for garbage collection and disposal; in the same year they paid an average of $620 for their local police patrols through the countywide police district tax. The annual cost of the garbage service per parcel (i.e., what the district actually spent to provide service, plus disposal costs), was even higher – $831 in 2004.
Comptroller Weitzman said, “It’s hard to believe that anybody pays more for their garbage service than for local police patrols. Yet that’s what we found in West Hempstead and the neighboring areas served by the 6th Sanitary District. Perhaps if the district had even a minimal level of financial controls in place, if it bid contracts competitively and got control over wasteful personnel practices, its costs might be more in line with other communities in Nassau that pay less than half what District 6 residents pay for the same level of refuse service,” he said.
The Town of Hempstead’s 6th district covers the unincorporated areas of West Hempstead, Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City South, Lakeview, Malverne Park and South Floral Park.
The audit found that District 6 management usually allows workers to leave after only four to five hours of work, despite union contracts that require it to pay an average hourly rate of $22 for a 5-day-per-week, 8-hour-per-day workweek.
“This results in an effective hourly rate of $36 for sanitation workers,” the Comptroller noted. “I want to be clear – we are not blaming the hard-working garbage collectors. They have a tough job, and our audit did not find evidence that they don’t do a good job. Rather, we blame a complacent management that allows such inefficient employment practices, in the mistaken belief that taxpayers don’t care what it costs as long as the garbage gets picked up.
“I suggest that the district’s commissioners and managers ask the taxpayers if they are happy to pay more than twice as much for garbage pickup as residents of Albertson, New Cassel, or Port Washington, to name only a few of the districts that have far lower costs,” Comptroller Weitzman said. “Nor can you defend this kind of inefficiency with the argument that other districts let employees go home at the end of their routes. Routes can be restructured to use personnel more efficiently, and hourly employees should be paid for actual hours worked. It’s time for these services to be run like the big businesses they are.”
Sanitary District 6 has approximately 240 employees. In 2004, its payroll costs were $10.6 million, out of an annual budget of approximately $19 million. The district collects refuse from 30,080 residential and 1,806 commercial parcels, providing curbside service three times a week, and pick-up of recyclables and yard waste once a week.
Among the audit’s other findings:
  • The district has no formal written policies for accounting or operations, except one governing procurement.
  • In defiance of its own procurement policy, the district does not competitively bid goods and services. For the two years audited (2003 and 2004), Comptroller’s staff found more than $400,000 in goods and services that were purchased with no evidence that competitive quotes were obtained.
  • In addition to employing three staff attorneys, including the Town Attorney for Hempstead, the district uses the services of five law firms – all without benefit of written contracts or retainer agreements.
  • The district pays a lobbyist $12,000 per year. There is no documentation supporting the need for this expense, nor are there time records or evidence of work performed.
  • The district has no procedures governing the awarding of overtime and keeps no records of overtime worked. In one example of the lax procedures, the district’s General Supervisor was paid $6,043 in overtime in 2004. Half of the overtime was apparently paid to him for attending Board meetings. The district could not justify the other half because it does not keep employee time records.
  • The district provides health benefits to certain favored part-time lawyers, commissioners and others, while denying such benefits to other part-time employees.

The report is the last of five audits of independent sanitary districts to be released by the Comptroller. On September 8, Comptroller Weitzman released audits of Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #1 (Five Towns area), and garbage collection districts in Syosset and Port Washington. While Port Washington's service was found to be efficiently operated, significant overspending and lapses of management control were found in the other two. An audit of Town of Hempstead Sanitary District #2 (Baldwin area), issued on September 21, found millions of dollars wasted every year on administrative expenses, including unnecessary and overpriced insurance sold to the district by a no-bid broker and personal use of 11 district cars and trucks.

“The waste uncovered at these sanitary districts occurred because, prior to these audits, there has been a complete lack of public oversight of these operations,” Comptroller Weitzman said. “And district commissioners and supervisors ran their operations as if they never expected there to be any.”

The full audit report of Sanitary District 6 can be read or downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Sanitary District No 6 Audit Report

(pdf file - Adobe Reader® required )

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Editor's Note: And the Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead continues to maintain that the Town has "no control" over the Town's Sanitary Districts and/or their (mis)management and operations, this notwithstanding the fact that the General Counsel for Sanitary District 6 also happens to be Hempstead's Town Attorney. We tip the Town Attorney's many hats to Town Supervisor Kate Murray. Oh how we love a charade!


  1. True to my user name, I am SICK IN SANITARY 6!

    We all know how much we pay for Police patrols, Nassau County having the highest paid officers with the sweetest contracts in the country. And we pay MORE to collect our trash than for police protection?

    My God, I know people who have private carting services who don't pay nearly as much - and that includes the payoff to the mob!

    We are getting ripped off by the Town of Hempstead! Doesn't anybody get it? Doesn't anybody care?

    We should throw those bums at Town Hall out with the trash and demand our money back!

  2. Could it be that crime is down and garbage is up, therfore we pay more for garbage pick up? I am sure some one like councilmen Anthony Santino or Kate or even Joe Ra will try and sell us this garbage. This is what we as tax payers get for letting one party rule for 100 years. I just hope more voters get the picture now and clean up the garbage at town hall. I don't need to hear about the towns bond rating and I don't need to see Kates picture, all I have to do is drive from Elmont to West Hempstead to see ALL OF THE TOH PAST AND PRESENT MISTAKES.

  3. Damn right we're being ripped off! Who can afford to live in this Town? And what we're getting is certainly not worth the price we're paying.

    If our Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, won't own up to her responsibility for the Town's Sanitary Districts, then surely our Town Attorney, Joseph Ra, will. He can't say he has no control. After all, he's also the General Counsel for Sanitary District 6.

    Pulling the wool over our eyes, indeed (only its not wool. Its Rayon, being sold to us at the price of wool)!

  4. We all knew this was coming. Why should Sanitary # 6 be any different than #1 (BIG THIEVES) and # 2?

    We should all write Alan Hevesi, State Comptroller and ask that oversight be instituted similar to what Pataki did with Nassau's finances (NIFA). This is widespread and totally out of control.

  5. Yeah you tell em- Vote for Harvey Levinson he'll change everything!!!

    Even the name - from Town of Hempstead - to FANTASY LAND

    Change is needed but these are serious times and we need serious people to make the changes & Harvey Levinson may talk a good talk but he will do exactly what he has done for the taxpayers of Nassau County - NOTHING!!!

    If the State has to come in to regain control of the Sanitary Districts then So be it- get rid of all those in control of the Special Districts and let it be run from one place TOWN HALL and make the Supervisor repsponsible directly for all Special Districts that way there can be no mistake of who has the Ultimate say!!!

  6. "When the cat is away, the mice will play." That, in essence, is the primary message of this audit. It is almost unfathomable in this day and age that we have a government entity of this size that operates entirely in the dark in Nassau County. The Sanitary Districts do not release budget information to the general public, they do not have a website where you can get even the most basic information (e.g. phone number, address), they do not advertise for bids for goods and services, they barely advertise elections for the commissioners, and no one has a clue as to what the "Commissioners" actually do besides suck up taxpayer's money.

    Every truck in Sanitation District 6 that rides through my neighborhood has a Town of Hempstead seal on the driver's door. Yet Ms. Murray claims to have "no control" over the Sanitation Districts. This is a shameful response from an elected official. Her Pontius Pilate approach to management of the Sanitation Districts is sickening.

    A proper repsonse would have been "You are right. This is not the way government should operate. These duplicative services are needlessly raising costs to taxpayers in the Town of Hempstead. I am going to take any and all necessary steps to implement adequate controls so that the residents of the Town of Hempstead know that the Sanitation Districts are providing efficient and cost-effective service to residents. The citizens of the Town of Hempstead are entitled to receive value for their tax dollars instead of waste and fraud."

    Of course, Ms Murray would never say that because every Commissioner is a Republican Committeeman or connected to the Republican party. The Sanitation Districts are nothing more than a giant patronage mill for the Republican party. Government as employment rather than government as service.

    Mr. Weitzman is too kind to the "hard-working garbage collectors" who fly down our streets throwing trash cans all over the place, not picking up any trash that may fall to the street, and giving you a hard time if you happen to have the nerve to ask them to wait while you bring out your trash (C'mon!! I have a 1:30 tee time at Eisenhower!!). I would have more sympathy if they actually worked an 8 hour day but the fact remains that everyone knows that these guys are done by noon - 1:00 p.m.

    For the kind of money we are paying, these people should be placing the cans in the back of the house, cleaning them by hand and tying a nice red ribbon on top. If this were a privatized service, I would have fired them years ago and hired someone else. Some might say,"Well, you should file a complaint with the Sanitation District!!" Sure, and maybe I will play for the Yankees next year.

    Unresponsive, no transparency, beyond control, poor service, inefficient, costly, and corrupt. This type of government is typical of Third World countries yet we have it right here in our backyard. If this is not a clarion call for change, I don't know what it will take for the residents of the Town of Hempstead to understand that a change is needed and now is the time. This is precisely the type of thing that is driving people off of Long Island.

  7. What I would like to know or really understand is this, How does anyone from Sanitary 6 earn overtime? As for 1 most are home before 11. School Districts Sanitary District, Town Government, County Government, I can keep going over 400 more times. When the Hell are we going to cosolidate, rid, end, most of these taxing District. Yes Kate, Tom and others people want a knew way to pay our school taxes, the regressive school tax needs to end. There are too many people living here who pay no taxes and use all of our services. It,s really a shame if only the TOH would have enforced their codes we wouldn't have such a mess. We the homeowners are demading change, we can't afford to pay from those renters, illegal aliens, contactors and no show jobs. We can't afford to pay for the education of children coming from illegal apartments, give us a break start charging those who pay no taxes or land;ords who pay the same taxes for the same size house. This is where the assessment went wrong same size house worth the same 500 thousand 1 house has many tenants the other is a single family home. Now that's wrong not the assement process but the TOH failure to correct the illegal housing issue

  8. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, 'you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool the people of Hempstead Town at any time.' No sir, you can just tax them to death and tell them how much they enjoy it!

    The Town Supervisor asserts "no control" over TOWN Special Districts, and refuses to step to the plate to take control.

    The Special Districts themselves are clearly out of control, with no one watching the pot, or so much as giving a second thought as the pot boils over, spills out, and ruins the stove!

    Control? Who needs control? Let's call the whole thing off!

    On Tuesday, November 8th, "control" will be in the hands of the voters. Take control in the voting booth, and take back control of our Town!

  9. The gods of good have heard our prayers. The Nassau County District Attorney has launched an investigating into allegations brought forward by the audit conducted on Sanitary District 1. Already the chairman of Sanitary District 1, Jack Rose resigned from Inwood Civic Association, sold his business and other things. He's a major thief - probably also the commissioner that received a "$5000 vacation bonus". Keep watching and reading - things are getting interesting.

  10. This is an excerpt from our article, "The call for open and honest government".

    Paul Kosowski
    Nassau County Civic Association

    “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted”
    -James Madison

    The need for open and honest government extends to all levels of government. This is validated by numerous fiscal scandals involving school districts and some recent scandals involving villages. While several government entities do provide a budget summation, most of the information is general in nature and does not include specific details. While the devil is in the details, the people have a right to know.

    “We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.” -Teddy Roosevelt

    Accordingly, we would recommend that all governmental entities in Nassau county; the county, towns, cities, villages and school districts post their full line item budget on the internet and provide hard copies to all public libraries located in their jurisdiction.

    This open government initiative would ensure that local residents are fully informed as to how their tax dollars are being utilized. This openness will encourage greater accountability by the municipalities and will facilitate public participation as this information is readily accessible.

    Letters were sent in November and December to all governmental entities in Nassau county recommending adoption of this initiative. As most of the municipalities have active websites and their budget and financial information is in an electronic format (Lotus, Excel), the cost would be insignificant. The Town of Hempstead has recently adopted this reform initiative.

    We trust the people. Our government should as well.