Letter: Maragos wrong to blame predecessor

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos at his Massapequa Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos at his Massapequa office on March 19, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Newsday reported that Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is paying an outside accounting firm to redo the county's financials, which he blames on "mistakes" from 2005 ["Audit restated due to error," News, April 30].

Maragos must accept responsibility for the mistakes made under his watch, which dates to 2010. His primary job is to issue accurate financial reports on the county. Now he acknowledges that the financial statements have been materially misstated since 2010, and the 2012 statements will have to be reissued -- an unprecedented financial misstep.

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Despite Maragos' desperate struggle to blame everyon else, there was no mistake before he took office. In 2005, the state changed its pension laws to give substantial, one-time relief to every municipality from soaring pension bills. This was not a discount, as claimed by Maragos. The change in law gave Nassau County an $84 million benefit, which was transferred to reserves for future pension costs. The appropriate accounting was discussed openly with all relevant parties, including the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

The problem occurred when Nassau started borrowing from the state in 2010 to make its pension payments. Maragos' office failed to take into account the 2005 pension law change, causing an understatement of future pension liabilities of $84 million. Whatever credibility Nassau may have had with the financial community is gone for sure.

Howard Weitzman, North Hills

Editor's note: The writer served as Nassau County comptroller from 2002 to 2009.
 

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