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Millions in Hempstead IDA payments owed to Nassau County, officials say

The IDA says a draft audit shows payments collected by the agency were not distributed to the county by Hempstead comptroller's office.

Hempstead Town Hall.

Hempstead Town Hall. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Hempstead Town comptroller did not disburse “millions of dollars” collected by the town Industrial Development Agency and owed to Nassau County, according to a news release from the IDA on Wednesday afternoon.

The millions of dollars in undistributed PILOT money, or “payments in lieu of taxes,” were noted in a July 25 draft of the Nassau County comptroller’s audit of the IDA, according to the release. The IDA grants property tax abatements to local businesses.

“The Agency forwarded all PILOT payments from all active PILOTS, as has been the past practice for many years, to the Town of Hempstead Comptroller’s Office to disburse the funds,” the statement read.

“Information circulated to the Agency from the Town of Hempstead’s Comptroller’s office indicated that the disbursements were made,” the statement continued.

Hempstead Comptroller Kevin Conroy declined through a town spokesman to comment.

Newsday submitted a freedom of information request for the draft of the audit and related correspondence on Aug. 10. An IDA spokesman said Wednesday the draft audit was not subject to open records requirements and would not be released. Newsday has not yet received any related correspondence.

Robert Busweiler, a spokesman for the Nassau County comptroller, declined on Wednesday to comment on the contents of the IDA’s statement, saying instead that “it is irresponsible for any party involved to draw conclusions, discuss specifics or disclose contents of a draft audit publicly.”

“We take the integrity of our process seriously and as such will be looking into whether any ethical violations occurred related to this release” of information about the audit, he said.

The IDA grants the property tax abatements to local businesses to promote economic development. Recipients make the PILOT payments, which often are smaller than the property tax bills would be, to the town IDA, which sends them to the town comptroller to disburse to taxing jurisdictions such as the town, county and school district, an IDA spokesman said.

The spokesman said he was not aware of the specific amount of undisbursed PILOT payments, the period in which they accrued, or where the money is now.

— With Stefanie Dazio

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