NIFA: Nassau wage freeze permitted under state law

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) meeting in Uniondale on Oct. 9, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Nassau's financial control board says in response to lawsuits by three county unions that it has the authority to impose and uphold a wage freeze for county workers that's been in place since 2011.

In documents filed Friday in State Supreme Court, attorneys for the Nassau Interim Finance Authority contend the wage freeze is permitted under the state law that created the county's financial board in 2000.

The Nassau Police Benevolent Association, Civil Service Employees Association and the Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association, in separate lawsuits filed in October, said NIFA can monitor the county's finances, but its authority to block spending expired in 2008.

NIFA, a financial oversight board created by the State Legislature in 2000, took control of Nassau's finances in 2011 and followed by declaring a financial emergency and suspending contractual pay increases.

In its legal response, NIFA attorneys said the state law governing the board "drafted a wage freeze provision broad enough to encompass," the agency's actions in 2011.

Union leaders said Monday they stood by their argument that the agency overreached its authority. But they said they were continuing to meet with the county in an attempt to reach a settlement outside of the courts. The unions are seeking an end to the wage freeze and back pay for its members.

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"I still think we're right on the statutory argument . . . but there's still room to sit down and reach a settlement," said PBA president James Carver.

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta said, "We're still trying to see if there's room to settle in part or in whole," outside the courts. "It's kind of like we're walking a tight rope," he said. NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman did not respond to a message left at his office.

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