Nassau County failed to inspect all but one emergency housing shelter for three years.
The county moved quickly to correct the oversight only after being embarrassed into doing so by a blistering audit from county Comptroller George Maragos, who pointed out that federal and county rules require annual inspections. It’s also worth noting that Maragos asked for paperwork on all of Nassau’s 27 emergency housing shelters, after difficulty in getting inspection information for one.
This constitutes another low mark for how the county provides for the health, welfare and safety of residents — the guts of government.
A state control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, is supposed to be prodding elected officials into fixing county finances, although results so far are mixed. County lawmakers recently blocked a proposed tax increase by County Executive Edward Mangano and rushed through some hefty raises for political appointees — and, beginning in 2018, for themselves.
While all of the above has — rightly — attracted the public’s attention, a series of audits by Maragos ought to be generating heat too.
In April, a Maragos audit found a “significant decline” in fixed-route service in 2012/2013 offered by the Nassau Inter-County Express Bus company, operator of the county bus system. And things are about to get worse for some riders. On Sunday, Newsday reported that the company, in a cost-saving move, plans to eliminate 11 routes and cut service on two others to deal with a perennial funding crisis — caused, in part, by rising personnel costs and significantly reduced contributions from Nassau County.
In June, a Maragos audit found “numerous weaknesses” in the county’s inspections of restaurants and other food establishments, It also found that customer complaints were not tracked, which left no way to determine whether they had been resolved.
That month, a Maragos audit found weaknesses in the county’s collection of ticket taxes from NYCB Theatre at Westbury from 2012 to 2016 — resulting in unpaid taxes and penalties of more than a half-million dollars — no small sum for the fiscally distressed municipality.
The new audit on emergency housing for residents including the homeless and those needing shelter after fires or storms, highlights some of the same kinds of weaknesses Maragos found in earlier audits involving a variety of county departments. Among them were a lack of inspections, monitoring and processes to catalog resident complaints and whether they were resolved.
How does Nassau know if the county shelters are fit for use absent inspections? And if county workers tasked with the job weren’t conducting inspections, what were they doing instead?
Nuts and bolts.
Which, increasingly in Nassau, seem to be coming loose.