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Former Nassau Democratic county executive hopeful Adam Haber, an East Hills businessman and former Wall Street trader, was appointed Thursday to be a member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board in control of the county's finances.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed Haber, a Roslyn school board member, on recommendation of State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). Haber, who also ran unsuccessfully against State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) last year, replaces Valley Stream trustee Dermond Thomas, who was appointed to NIFA in 2011 on recommendation of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.
Thomas' term expired in December 2013 but he had continued to serve in the unpaid position as a holdover. At the request of Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, Heastie recommended Haber to replace Thomas on March 24.
Under NIFA law, the governor appoints four members of the seven-member panel while the state comptroller, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker each get one recommendation.
Cuomo has a close relationship to Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, who endorsed the Democratic governor's re-election bid last year. Cuomo's appointees remain a majority on the NIFA board, but Haber's addition is likely to change the board's dynamics, both politically and publicly.
Unlike Thomas, who is supporting a primary challenge against the Nassau Democratic Party's legislative candidate, incumbent Legis. Carrié Solages of Elmont, Haber's allegiance is to Jacobs. Haber acknowledged Thursday that he had reached out to the Nassau Democratic leader about the NIFA job and Jacobs had made the call to Heastie.
Thomas seldom spoke at NIFA meetings while Haber promises to be more active. "I have no problem speaking my mind respectfully," Haber said. "I don't plan on being a hell-raiser. I think a lot gets done with sugar. But I am opinionated, a New Yorker through and through."
Jacobs declined to comment on Haber's appointment. But Solages said, "Adam Haber will be a great addition to NIFA because of his financial background. If he could run a business, I am sure he can help Nassau run more efficiently."
Haber made an unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic county executive candidate in 2013 to challenge incumbent Mangano. Now Haber will be overseeing the finances of the man he had once hoped to defeat.
"Everything seems to come around in politics one way or another," Haber said. "Either way, I hope to help him in what he's doing and make Nassau as solid financially as it can be."
Mangano said Thursday, "I've had prior discussions with Adam Haber and expect he will participate in a productive manner. I welcome him to the board."
But the county legislature's Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), was less cordial. She said in a statement, "To appoint a rabidly partisan Democrat candidate that was twice soundly rejected by the voters to serve in public office as a NIFA director is an outrageous political maneuver that calls into question the integrity of the entire oversight process. If Adam Haber has any respect for the residents of this County he will decline this appointment immediately."
Haber responded, "My goals are simple, just to help. I sat through countless county legislative sessions. I think Norma knows my intentions are pure and I will win her over with good work in months to come."
Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) also responded, saying, "If Norma Gonsalves and the Republican administration knew how to make sound financial decisions that protect taxpayers, the County wouldn't be under a control board in the first place. It's no surprise they are attacking an accomplished public servant with an outstanding finance background."
NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman, a Cuomo appointee, issued a statement, saying, "Dermond Thomas has served us well with a quiet dignity that reflected his integrity, substance and depth along with his commitment to public service as a NIFA board member ... Adam is also very smart and committed to public service and I am sure he will make an outstanding addition to our board."
NIFA member Chris Wright, the state comptroller appointee who has differed with Cuomo majority at times, said, "I've had the privilege of serving alongside Dermond, whose professional, thoughtful, mature and insightful approach benefited NIFA and Nassau County ... I also know Adam Haber, and his extensive business and civic experience should be of great assistance as NIFA deals with Nassau County's many lingering problems. I look forward to serving with him."