Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eat Garbage, Lady!

Maragos Pledges Follow-Up on Comptroller's Audits of Special Districts

Hot on the heels of the Newsday article, which followed the antics of the $200,000+ Sanitary Commissioner in Oceanside, incoming Nassau County Comptroller, George Maragos, has said that the audits -- which demonstrated waste and abuse in the special taxing districts -- shall not have been in vain.

""Otherwise, why are we spending the money and doing these audits if there's no follow-up?" Maragos asked Newsday reporter Sandra Peddie.

Why, indeed!

We encourage Mr. Maragos, as Comptroller, not only to take the next step in challenging the special districts on issues of efficiency and economy, if nothing more, but also to make good on his campaign promises to "reduce the cost of government, speak out against overspending, demand fiscal responsibility, and be independent of the County Executive."

Of course, as concerns the special districts, such as the Town of Hempstead Sanitary District in Oceanside, all the follow-up in the world will go for naught unless and until the Town -- whose name and imprint is etched into every aspect of the Sanitary District's being -- steps up and takes responsibility.

Enough of the bunk from the bunker where Town Supervisor Kate Murray and her Committeemen are holed up. "We have no control over the special districts..."

Yeah. Just as the Town has no control over zoning, code enforcement, roadway resurfacing, downtown revitalization, or any one of dozens of operations over which the Town has tacit, if not actual jurisdiction.

Build a much-needed supermarket in Elmont to replace the delapidated Argo movie theater? The Town has no control. Tear down the Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead and build transit-oriented rental units? The Town has no control. Make a decision, at long last, on the Lighthouse project, the centerpiece of Nassau County's revival. The Town has control, but what's the rush? Nothing actually gets done here without a decade or more of delay.

We guess "control" is subjective. To us, review of budgets, including salaries, and appointment, with a wink and a nod, of personnel (who just happen, by mere coincidence, to be GOP Committeemen, Town employees, or the brother, son or nephew of one of Town Hall's own), exudes control.

Then again, what the heck do we know?

Meanwhile, in New York State's most taxing fire district, Gordon Heights, residents are one step closer to dissolution, just a single commissioner's vote shy.

The Town of Brookhaven failed to act on the legitimate Petition of taxpayers to dissolve the districts, so Gordon Heights residents stepped up, ran for office, and, whatdayaknow, they won.

Now that's what we call, "local control!"
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From Newsday:

New Nassau comptroller reacts to trash supervisor's raise


The news that Oceanside's $199,750-a-year garbage supervisor got a merit raise right after a county audit harshly criticized his extraordinary pay package prompted the newly elected county comptroller to vow Wednesday to push for better follow-up of audits.

"Otherwise, why are we spending the money and doing these audits if there's no follow-up?" asked George Maragos, a Republican businessman who in his first bid for office defeated Democrat Howard Weitzman.

Maragos was reacting to the fact that commissioners of sanitary district No. 7 started paying supervisor Charles Scarlata a $40-a-week merit raise Nov. 7, just a week after county auditors lambasted his extraordinary pay package in an audit. In addition to his base salary of $154,908, Scarlata receives bonuses and special benefits that boost his entire compensation by tens of thousands.

Special districts have been a hot-button political issue because they are a source of patronage jobs. But Maragos, who financed his campaign entirely with his own money, said he was not concerned about such political considerations.

Instead, he said, "we have to start bringing about change to make government more accountable."

Scarlata, 51, is the son of Oceanside Republican leader Michael Scarlata, who ran the district for many years, retired and now is back as a part-time consultant. Charles Scarlata's mother, Johanna, works for the Town of Hempstead, as do two of the district's commissioners, Michael Sullivan and Thomas Dapolito.

Hempstead Town officials say they have little authority over the district's operations, even though the town board approves the district's nearly $8 million annual budget, which includes salaries.

But outgoing county Comptroller Weitzman, who oversaw the audit of the district, disagreed.

"It's up to the town supervisor and council to use their authority under state law to control the district's spending," he said in a statement.

And Laura Mallay, executive director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, a group seeking to consolidate some districts, said, "Our elected officials need to step up here on behalf of the taxpayer."

She added, "It's time to stop passing the buck."

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