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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau work-at-home accommodation draws comptroller’s scrutiny

Karl Kampe in 1982.

Karl Kampe in 1982. Credit: Newsday / Kathy Kmonicek

Nassau’s Civil Service commission has a big job.

It administers the state’s Civil Service law and is responsible for administering qualifying exams for public service jobs — which, in theory at least, is supposed to minimize the influence of politics from the process.

The commission, an independent agency, is housed within county government. But its jurisdiction extends beyond 33 Nassau departments, stretching into 234 municipal agencies, including two of Nassau’s three towns, school districts, libraries, villages and special districts.

The commission’s operations largely remain hidden from public view.

That changed last week after the resignation of Karl Kampe, who stepped down as the commission’s secretary and chief examiner. Before leaving the position, Kampe, 74, had sought — and received — permission to work from home at full salary of $174,541 a year for most of the prior 18 months after suffering a back injury.

The approved work-at-home arrangement is now the subject of an audit by Nassau Comptroller Jack Schnirman when the office reviews Kampe’s request for unused sick and vacation time termination pay.

Nassau officials on Friday could not provide a copy of the county’s sick-day or leave policies as they existed under former County Executive Edward Mangano.

Rob Walker, Mangano’s chief deputy county executive, approved Kampe’s work-from-home arrangement, which then was approved by commission members, officials said.

It is not unusual for employers to grant accommodations for sick or injured employees, and the arrangements can include working from home.

An official said Friday, however, that Kampe’s approved arrangement did not appear to have been made under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees.

“What was the process?” Schnirman asked. “Given this highly irregular arrangement that he had, we will be putting this under some scrutiny,” he said.

Helena Williams, County Executive Laura Curran’s chief deputy, called the arrangement “an informal” accommodation — one that she recommended that the commission continue for three months before evaluating how it was working.

“Karl has been an institution and he was an incredibly capable man for a very, very long time and I think he was capable even while at his work-from-home status,” Williams said.

In addition to accepting Williams’ recommendation for an initial three-month extension of Kampe’s arrangement, the commission at that time also accepted Williams’ proposal to put a succession plan into place, should Kampe’s health have kept him from returning to work.

“We are not a telecommuting company, we are government and we have people who have to be supervised and Karl understood that,” Williams said.

Deputy County Attorney Martha Krisel will serve as the Civil Service Commission’s interim executive director, until the three-member commission decides Kampe’s replacement.

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