Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Friday he will give new job titles to his appointees who received pay increases over the past year to avoid breaching an employee wage freeze.
Mangano wrote in a letter to Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, that he believes employees who can be hired and fired at will are not covered by the freeze imposed by the financial control board in 2011. His administration has "honored the spirit of the freeze" by giving pay raises only to appointees who have taken on additional responsibilities as jobs have been eliminated through cost-cutting, Mangano said.
But because Kaiman has acknowledged that job title changes are outside the scope of NIFA's freeze, "we have taken steps to place employees in titles that mirror their responsibilities and to ensure that no employees in stagnant titles will receive a wage adjustment" unless the freeze is lifted," Mangano wrote.
Newsday reported last week that county elected officials awarded 32 raises to appointees, ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 annually. Another 25 appointees received new job titles along with increases in pay, for a total increase of $800,000 in salaries and benefits. Salaries for county union workers remained frozen.
Kaiman this week wrote Mangano, County Comptroller George Maragos, County Clerk Maureen O'Connell, District Attorney Kathleen Rice, the county's two elections commissioners and the leaders of the county legislature that the freeze covers all wages, not just the salaries of union workers. He directed they rescind any raises that violate NIFA's order.
After meeting with Mangano on Thursday, Kaiman acknowledged a loophole: "It is my understanding that a change in job/title is outside the scope of the wage freeze order," he said.
Kaiman said Friday that a "title change is not something we can address. We can't go and audit every title in the county. It's just not our job. The county has titles available. If they put somebody in other titles, that's within their authority."
He added, "It's my sense that they're going to abide by the spirit of the wage freeze order as NIFA has presented it and we appreciate their doing it."
James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association, suggested that Mangano "use that same logic for the employees of the county and bump us up a title to get us our rightful wages and steps back. If he is able to do this to give them a raise, they should create new titles that will bump us all up."
Meanwhile, State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has recommended that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appoint former NIFA member Paul Leventhal to replace board member George Marlin, whose term expired at the end of last month. Marlin replaced Leventhal on the NIFA Board in June 2010 when Democrats controlled the State Senate. By law, one of the seven members of the NIFA board must be recommended by the Senate majority leader.
"Sen. Skelos has exercised his prerogative to make an appointment to the NIFA board," Skelos aide Scott Reif said. "As a former member of NIFA, Mr. Leventhal has a deep understanding of Nassau County finances, and we're confident that he'll do an outstanding job."
With Yancey Roy