Talkin' Trash In The Town That Murray Bilked
The Father. The Son. The Sanitary District Supervisor.
No, not some religious dogma adhered to by Monks bound to a vow of silence. Just the taking by the Town of Hempstead of public tax money -- your tax dollars -- to pad the payroll with cronies, hacks, and family members. A saga repeated in water districts, fire districts, and sanitary districts throughout America's most blighted township. We, the people, turning the other cheek while our pockets are picked clean.
How could it be that a Supervisor in the Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 7 in Oceanside (disavowed by that very Town government and its Supervisor, Kate Murray, as having any connection to the Town whatsoever), takes home $663,163 in salary and benefits, deferred compensation valued at $299,530, a Chevy trailblazer (and a Tahoe), and 5-weeks vacation per year?
Not to mention that, while some of us do without a new pair of shoes or eye glasses for our kids in this awful economy, this same Sanitary District Supervisor -- a public employee -- garners a $450 a year shoe and optical allowance?
Could it be that the Supervisor's Dad is a well-connected GOPer, the leader of the Oceanside Republican Club, who held the lucrative Sanitary District Supervisor spot before his son, and, on top of an annual public pension of $75,000 a year, returned to the Sanitary District after retirement as a part-time consultant, raking in another $62,000 per year, plus health benefits?
That's more than one million taxpayer dollars, folks, to support this one family, for one year, in one (and a half) positions, at a single Sanitary District.
Is it any wonder Town of Hempstead residents, served (or is it fleeced?) by the Special Sanitary Districts, pay as much (in some instances, more) for garbage collection as they do for police protection? [Yes, we know, Tony Santino. We enjoy paying more!]
According to Newsday, when told of the (Comptroller) audit's findings, Jeff Tierney, a director of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, said, "That's really a slap in the face. How does it get to this point? Who's in charge?"
Who's in charge? Why, that would be us, the homeowners, the taxpayers, the voters, right? As local as local government gets, or so the Town would dupe us into believing.
Or is it Kate Murray and her cohorts at Hempstead Town Hall, who not only sanction the shenanigans at the Town's Special Districts, but, through their own actions, in what amounts to blatant nepotism, inexcusable abuse of the public trust, and downright thievery, when it comes right down to it, hire friends and relatives for lucrative Town jobs -- and then, rehire them after they've "retired"?
Yes, Kate & Kompany have control of the Sanitary Districts. Do not attempt to adjust your recycling bins. Kate controls the patronage, and the Party -- the one Mondello built -- controls Kate!
And whose fault is that? Er. Um. That would be us, wouldn't it?
Yes, Joe Mondello may well have anointed Kate as Town Supervisor back in 2003, but it is we, the people, who not only elected Murray twice thereafter, but are poised to re-elect her again tomorrow.
Ahh. The Masochism Tango. The official dance of the Town of Hempstead.
Maybe its all those endorsements Kate has racked up.
The Editorial Board of Newsday -- Long Island's only daily -- gave its nod to Kate, "trusting that she will make the right decisions..." [Hey. If Kate hasn't made the right decisions during six years in office -- and she hasn't, by Newsday's own findings, in black and white -- what in the world makes them think she'll get in right now?]
Interesting. The paper blasts Murray regularly, and then turns around and tells voters to re-elect the smiling one. Perhaps the Editorial Board missed Sandra Peddie's eye-opening series on the Special taxing Districts, or neglected to read Eden Laikin's columns on the maladministration of government in Hempstead and other GOP strangleholds. [Newsday may ignore the writing in its own publication. Thankfully, others have duly recognized the groundbreaking investigative reporting of Peddie and Laikin.]
The Editorial Board must have been mesmerized by that effervescent smile. The hypnotic spell of Hempstead Town's very own Cheshire Cat.
Why, even the local, so-called "community" paper -- the Herald -- gave its endorsement to Murray, saying "it is hard to criticize Murray’s performance as town supervisor."
The Herald's own reporters and editors, when not simply regurgitating press releases emanating from Hempstead Town Hall, are repeatedly questioning Murray's actions -- and, most notably, inaction -- at the helm, as are the paper's readers.
For some reason, the Herald doesn't see Murray's opponent, Kristen McElroy, as "fully prepared to take on the job of manager of one of the largest towns in America."
What does it take to prepare for Hempstead Supervisor, anyway? A stint as Sanitary District Supervisor?
But no. As per the Herald, Murray has an "understanding of the issues residents face..."
Oh, Kate Murray understands the issues, all right. She just doesn't do a damn thing about them!
As for Newsday's claim that Kristen McElroy's "budgeting experience is mostly limited to running a household", making her unprepared to run a town with a 2010 budget of $386 million, isn't that just a bit disingenuous?
After all, Kate Murray has been running the town -- mainly, into the ground -- with budgets that give almost everyone in her household a piece of the public pie. Apparently, running a household budget counts for a heck of a lot more than Newsday's Editorial Board opines.
Is it us, or is it them? Have they lost their minds, or have we?
Are we missing something?
Oh yeah. OUR MONEY! Kate and her cronies at Hempstead Town Hall, and their cancerous tentacles that reach out into the Town's far too many special taxing districts, have taken our money away.
Have they also taken away our ability to think and reason? Have they relieved the good citizens of the Town's underrepresented and overtaxed unincorporated areas of rational forethought? Have Kate & Kompany disenfranchised us of our very right to vote in our own best interests? [No, only we could do that to ourselves!]
Just when will we take stock in ourselves, our future as Long Islanders, our stake in Hempstead Town, and, at long last, stop the insanity?
When will we have had enough of million dollar garbage?
We have no delusions that the old, tired, machine will crank on in Hempstead Town, there being little willingness on the part of the electorate to rage against the follies and foibles of an administration that, time and time again, decade in and decade out, has put its own selfish interests ahead of ours.
We will, in all likelihood, wake up Wednesday morning to the same old Murraygrams in our mailboxes, with little else to show for the millions of tax dollars we pour into the patronage pot.
Or maybe, just maybe, we will have that much-needed awakening on Tuesday -- Election Day -- realizing that they're not just stealing lawn signs out there, they're stealing our tomorrows!
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Audit: Oceanside son, dad earn over $1M from taxpayers
by SANDRA PEDDIE / email@example.com
In three years, Oceanside garbage supervisor Charles Scarlata earned a whopping $667,163 in public pay and benefits, making him one of the most highly compensated public officials on Long Island, according to an audit by the Nassau County Comptroller's office.
The audit also shows that Scarlata, 51, will receive a $25,000-a-year payment from Sanitary District 7 for 15 years after he leaves the district -- a deferred compensation package currently worth $299,530.
Included in his pay package is a $450-a-year shoe and optical allowance. Scarlata also receives the use of a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer provided to him by the district and five weeks vacation a year. Thursday, a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe registered to the district was parked in front of Scarlata's Oceanside home.
The audit is the most recent in a series of reviews by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman of special districts, the tiny units of government that provide services such as garbage pickup and water hookups to specific areas. In recent years, special districts have come under fire for spending and patronage abuses.
Family tiesIf Scarlata has any questions about the job, all he has to do is turn to his father, Oceanside Republican Club leader Michael Scarlata, 75, who held the post before him.
Although Michael Scarlata retired from the district in December 1998 with an annual pension of about $75,000, he returned two days later as a part-time consultant for the district, making an additional $62,000 a year, plus health benefits, according to the audit.
All told, the father and son cost the taxpayers more than $1 million in pay and benefits from the sanitary district from 2006 through 2008, the years examined by the audit, Weitzman said. District taxpayers pay $676 a year in garbage taxes; the average in Hempstead town is $420.
"Taxpayers have financed a million-dollar family," he said.
When told of the audit's findings, Jeff Tierney, a director of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, said, "That's really a slap in the face. How does it get to this point? Who's in charge?"
Neither Charles nor Michael Scarlata returned calls for comment Thursday.
Resistance to probeWeitzman's audit shows his office's work in the district was not easy.
Auditors encountered stiff resistance from Charles Scarlata, who at times was "verbally hostile and abusive," according to the report.
Three auditors got flat tires while at the district, said Weitzman's spokeswoman, Carole Trottere. After finishing their review, they reported the flat tires and referred the audit to the Nassau County district attorney's office. A spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the office is reviewing the audit.
Weitzman, a Democrat who is running for re-election, said the release of the audit has nothing to do with Tuesday's election.
He said he released it immediately after getting the district's response this week. In the response, district officials defended their operations, but agreed to consider some of the comptroller's recommendations.
The district's attorney, Jerome Cline of Lynbrook, did not return a call Thursday seeking comment for this story.
The audit highlights the district's extraordinary pay structure, which benefits select administrators, but pays far less to the people who actually pick up the garbage, Weitzman said.
For example, in 2008, Charles Scarlata was paid $224,569 to supervise roughly 55 employees. He was able to add $51,748 to his base salary of $146,245 by receiving payment for 92 comp days, which the audit said was for working extra hours.
Additional benefits -- among them a $10,000 bonus, and health and dental insurance -- boosted his total compensation package for that year to $240,769, the audit said. By comparison, sanitation workers make from $17,000 to $79,550 a year, according to records.
Moreover, district administrators are entitled to up to 800 days of termination pay -- or about 3½ years of salary -- when they leave. Laborers get up to 250 days, according to the audit.
Because Charles Scarlata was the only employee whose payments for comp time were included in salary reports to the New York State retirement system, his pension upon retiring will be approximately $124,000 a year, auditors said.
Scarlata's father, Michael, has long been active in the Nassau Republican Party. He has served on the party's executive committee and contributed to various Republican campaigns, according to records. One of the district's commissioners, Seymour Mensch, helps run the Oceanside Republican club with him, according to the county party's Web site.
Despite continuing to work as a district consultant, Michael Scarlata has no contract. Officials refused to provide auditors a written summary of his work, but said he fields requests from local community groups, responds to problems at schools and helps with labor negotiations, the audit said.
Nepotism is rampant, the audit said, with at least eight employees who appear to have family ties. "Sanitary District No. 7 has become the local family business on the public payroll," Weitzman said.
Joseph Troiano, who is active with Residents for Efficient Special Districts, a civic group pushing for reforms, said, "This stuff just has to stop. It's very unfair to the unsuspecting taxpayers."
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Click HERE to read the Comptroller's Audit Report of Sanitary District 7, Town of Hempstead.