Monday, December 17, 2007

The Tiger Woods Of The Water Districts

Getting Paid To Play Golf

And they even cheat at that!

Its enough to tee off even the most indifferent taxpayer.

Imagine. Paid for steak dinners at Mortons. Paid for vacations in the Bahamas. Paid for watching television. And now, paid for playing golf.

Dream jobs at the special districts.

We pay, they play!
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Water district officials are paid for golf outing

On a sunny autumn morning last September, a number of water district commissioners, superintendents, engineers and others gathered for a breakfast meeting followed by several hours of golf at the Timber Point Golf Course in Great River.

A Newsday reporter and photographer observed the gathering, which by all appearances had no official agenda or purpose, other than to play golf. The players appeared convivial and relaxed - at least five players who hit their balls into the rough picked them up and threw them back on the fairway.

Because the meeting was hosted by the Long Island Water Conference, a professional group of water suppliers, some of the representatives from the water districts playing golf also got paid for the day, records show. The outing was not listed in the group's schedule of monthly meetings.The chairman of the water conference, Ken Claus, said in a prepared statement e-mailed to a reporter late Friday that the golf outing was about "building relationships."

"In addition to the numerous educational seminars and programs the Long Island Water Conference provides throughout the year, we hold an annual golf outing," he said. "The outing provides members with a relaxed environment to discuss concerns and issues, as well as share thoughts and ideas facing water providers throughout the Island. Building relationships and lasting partnerships is a crucial step in developing much needed inter-municipal cooperation between the various providers."

South Farmingdale Water Commissioners John Hirt and Kurt Ludwig charged their district $100 per diem for attending the golf outing. Ludwig and Hirt declined to comment for this story.

Karl Schweitzer, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Water Commissioners Association, said pay for commissioners is justified when they attend certain dinner meetings, such as the monthly meetings hosted by his organization. But getting paid for participating in golf outings, he said, was another matter.

"It has been going on, and it's a practice that should be discontinued," he said. "What kind of business are you covering?"

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, whose office has released several audits critical of special districts, said commissioners should not be paid at all.

"They get paid for whatever they deem to be a meeting, and in many cases, a meeting is any place they get together to discuss business," he said, adding, "The system should be eliminated."

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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