Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Father, Son, And Holy Ghost

Everyone And His Cousin Is On Payroll At The Water District; And Town Attorney Was Paid Counsel

Tell us, does no one see this as outrageous?

Father, sister, mother, in-laws, uncles -- every member of the family getting a salary in the special taxing district fiefdoms, and guess who pays to run these crazy Mom & Pop outfits?

Yes, you, Mr. & Mrs. Taxpayer!

Think the situation in the Franklin Square Water District is unique, the exception to the rule?

Uh, uh. It is the rule, baby.

The Commissioner's son is the superintendent. Junior's nephew and the business manager's son are water plant attendants. The Commissioner's daughter is an account clerk. And guess who the attorney for the water district was? Joe Ra, the Town of Hempstead Attorney, who also wore the hat of counsel for Sanitary District 6.

Not that there's anything wrong in the least with any of this. No. In fact, the water district's business manager defends the practices of nepotism, calling this "all in the family" arrangement "justified."

Is anybody else absorbing all of this, or are we the only ones who get it?

This nepotism, this blatant patronage, this whoring out of municipal services, where the taxpayers and homeowners are being ripped off royally for undocumented work at meetings that never take place, while the Town Supervisor and her cronies sit in Town Hall chortling, "We have no control over the special districts."

No, and there were no American troops at the Baghdad airport, and there are no homosexuals in Iran.

Maybe these folks should start practicing another line of historical repute: "I am not a crook!"

What will it take -- short of indictments hauling every last one of these petty little hacks into jail -- for us to say, "Enough already!"

How much more of our hard-earned money will we allow them to flush down the toilet, while they thumb up their noses at all of us, before we throw the bums out?
- - -
From the Franklin Square/Elmont Herald:
Water district shows leaks
By Brian Zanzonico

For the second time in three years, a local special district has received a scathing report from the county comptroller.

An audit of the Franklin Square Water District has determined that officials received per diem payments for meetings they did not attend, and that the district's hiring practices gave preferential treatment to family members, County Comptroller Howard Weitzman says. Among Weitzman's findings, which were released last week, were that some $55,000 of the $75,000 in per diem payments in 2004 and 2005 were paid to commissioners for days when there were no meetings of the water district board or outside meetings. According to Weitzman, there was little documentation of the hours worked or what jobs were performed. At the time of the audit, state law set the maximum daily compensation for water district commissioners at $80 a day.

"Although water bills are probably not homeowners' largest monthly payments, Long Island water districts are multimillion-dollar operations run with public tax dollars, and they should be operated efficiently and with proper oversight," Weitzman said. "These audits provide further evidence that some special districts in Nassau County are being operated as local government fiefdoms where unchecked spending is often for the benefit of the commissioners and other insiders."

Water district Business Manager Carmen DiMartino said the per diem payments were justified, but he added that all future meetings would be documented in a log book. "If they're giving their time, they're entitled to some reimbursement," DiMartino told the Herald. "If they go to a meeting of the Long Island Water Conference, that's time spent for the district."

The audit also found that nepotism was rampant among water district officials: Commissioner Leonard Falco's son, Leonard Falco Jr., is the district superintendent; Leonard Jr.'s nephew and the business manager's son are water plant attendants; and a commissioner's daughter is an account clerk.

DiMartino defended the water district's hiring practices, saying that all employees must go through the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, a board that serves 33 county departments and 234 municipal agencies, including the towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, school districts, libraries, villages and special districts. "The case of whether an applicant is qualified has to be approved by Nassau County Civil Service," DiMartino said. "If they meet the qualifications, they're hired. Everyone here is qualified."

These were among the other audit's findings:

There were no written operating policies and procedures for many of the district's accounting and operating functions, such as cash receipts, disbursements and payroll.

The district paid $13,600 for the water district attorney and a junior attorney during the audit period. The district reported both attorneys' time to the retirement system, even though the water district attorney, Joseph Ra, had a full-time job with the Town of Hempstead and was also a part-time attorney for the town's Sanitary District 6. The district also paid Social Security and Medicare taxes for the attorneys because they had employee status, even though Internal Revenue Service guidelines permit them to be treated as consultants, which would have saved taxpayer money. Ra resigned from the water district in 2005. Job assignments did not detail segregation of duties regarding financial transactions. Job descriptions were written vaguely or did not exist.

Overtime payments totaling about $50,000 had no supporting documentation. DiMartino said the water district has remediated most of the problems uncovered by the audit, including the institution of a code of ethics, includes a policy on conflict-of-interest that prevents employees from overseeing family members. "Everything that was possible to change, we changed, to satisfy the questions that were brought up," DiMartino said.

The comptroller's 2003-04 audit of Sanitary District No. 6 found that more than $400,000 in goods and services had been purchased with no evidence of solicitation of competitive bids; that the district paid a lobbyist $12,000 a year without documentation of the need for one or evidence of the work performed; and that health benefits were provided to certain part-time lawyers and commissioners but not to other part-time employees. Sanitary District No. 6 covers Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City South, Lakeview, Malverne Park, South Floral Park and West Hempstead.

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