Jon Kaiman in dispute with Nassau over parks audit

Jon Kaiman, supervisor of the Town of North Jon Kaiman, supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead, speaks at the Smart Growth Summit in Melville. (Nov. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

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Jon Kaiman and Nassau County are at it again.

The North Hempstead Town supervisor has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the county over Comptroller George Maragos' request to audit a town-operated park district.

Kaiman last week sent a group of town officials -- the comptroller, her deputy, the public information officer and a photographer -- to Maragos' office to deliver documents related to the district.

Maragos' office labeled the visit a "political stunt."

Document drop-offs are frequent, spokesman Jostyn Hernandez said, but "usually they don't come with a photographer."

Town officials said they turned over district-related town board meeting minutes from 1984-2010, a copy of the lease agreement between the district and the town, and financial statements concerning the park district for 2009-11. But the binders, Hernandez said, did not include everything requested in a prior subpoena -- for example, a current charter and bylaws, and payroll registers.

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"A political stunt, such as the photographing of a submission of documents, is exactly what our residents are tired of," Maragos said in a news release. "This stunt continues the town's pattern of failing to comply with the unanimous decisions by two state courts."

Kaiman said the town needs to document its actions because the county has turned the matter into "a political circus." The issue, he said, "could have been resolved in a 40-minute review of documents."

In 2011, Maragos asked to audit the Clinton G. Martin Park District in New Hyde Park, citing what he said were allegations by district residents that funds were misappropriated. Last month, a State Supreme Court appellate decision found the county could audit the park; the town is appealing.

Kaiman said the audit was politically motivated. He said it is "unconstitutional" for a county to audit a town.

Wednesday's visit followed a heated exchange over the issue at North Hempstead's town board meeting Tuesday night.

"We want to know why you refuse to show them!" Parks Civic Association president Jim McHugh said to Kaiman, referring to park records.

Kaiman said the town repeatedly has offered to show residents and officials documents related to the park, but he will not submit to a full audit. "You don't have the guts to come and see those records, sir," Kaiman told McHugh.

Kaiman said the town is audited internally and independently, and he is willing to let the town's auditor speak to the county.

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Said Hernandez: "Auditees don't go to us, we go to them."

Kaiman said the audit push "is going to cost the towns in Nassau County hundreds of millions. The counties are going to start auditing the towns on a nonstop basis."

Hernandez said the county is not auditing the town, only the park district, and that the county has audited water and sanitation districts in Hempstead Town in the past.

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