Nassau's financial control board warned elected officials Thursday that it is prepared to challenge pay increases they gave to their appointees over the past year despite a wage freeze imposed by the board three years ago.
Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, added that increasing responsibilities for a county worker does not justify a salary increase unless the job title changes.
"At this time, I am requesting that all wage increases for nonunion employees be withdrawn," Kaiman wrote in identical letters to the county comptroller, county clerk, district attorney, Board of Elections commissioners and leaders of the county legislature. Kaiman wrote a similar letter to County Executive Edward Mangano earlier this week.
Newsday reported last week that county elected officials gave out 32 raises to appointees who can be hired or fired at will while another 25 appointees received new job titles along with increased pay -- for a total of about $800,000 in salaries and benefits. County union workers salaries remained frozen.
Officials relied on a 2012 county attorney opinion that the wage freeze imposed by NIFA in 2011 applied only to union workers.
Mangano and the other officials argued that the appointees deserved raises because they took on additional duties of eliminated positions as the administration downsized government and saved millions of dollars in operating costs.
NIFA officials argue the freeze was intended to cover all wages. County Comptroller George Maragos has estimated the freeze saved Nassau $230 million through last year.
Kaiman wrote that after conversations with NIFA board members, staff and counsel, "NIFA is prepared to challenge the issuance of wage increases that we believe are contrary to the wage freeze order."
He also said it was his "understanding that a change in job/title is outside the scope of the wage freeze order. On the other hand, adding work related responsibilities for the same job is not."
Kaiman met with Mangano Thursday. Mangano declined to comment Thursday. He has argued that the nine raises given to his appointees saved money because their pay increases cost far less than the salary and benefits of eliminated positions.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice gave raises to 10 assistant district attorneys and 10 title changes. Her spokesman, Shams Tarek, said all raises were for promotions, explaining the title "assistant district attorney" includes both low-level and supervisory positions.
"We welcome this letter because, in our reading of the letter, it confirms what we have been arguing all along: our pay changes are all linked to promotions and would not be covered by the freeze," Tarek said.
Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte acknowledged receiving Kaiman's letter. But he noted the election board is covered by state election law which "gives sole discretion to the commissioners to hire and fire and set salaries."
Kaiman said in an interview that he would "stay in touch with board members and see what our next step will be. We're prepared to call a meeting when we need to call a meeting."