Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) board chairman Ronald A. Stack...

Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) board chairman Ronald A. Stack rests his face in his palms during a meeting at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale. (April 20, 2011) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

There wasn't much action during the public portion of Wednesday's meeting of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

But there was plenty off in the sidelines.

One NIFA board member, George Marlin, noted that the fiscal control board has yet to receive a single contract for review.

Meanwhile, Ronald Stack, NIFA's chairman, reacting to a story that day in Newsday, questioned whether the county really has a hiring freeze.

Wednesday's meeting -- which came almost a month after a court battle settled the question of whether NIFA was in charge of county finances -- was supposed to be NIFA's first nuts-and-bolts session.

It was a first look into a give-and-take, back-and-forth dance partnering NIFA and the county's elected officials -- who for the first time are making policy under the watchful eyes of a control board.

The dance appeared to be one partner short.

In quick order, NIFA dispensed with some internal matters. Then it approved a county request for standard short-term borrowing to help its cash flow.

The board delayed a decision on a second request, for long-term borrowing, because the county had forwarded it late and with too little information.

One benefit of a control board is that it can provide an open window into the guts of a county operation that, through Republican and Democratic leadership, has been aggressively opaque.

But the tease of transparency for contracts -- and the county approves, extends and renews a heck of a lot of them -- disappointed Wednesday.

And with good reason: "As of today, we have not received one contract from the county," Marlin said in an interview.

He noted that the county legislature had approved a few, including one to handle health care for jail inmates, and sent them off to the county executive.

None has reached NIFA, which is required to say yea or nay to any county contract over $50,000, and to any county requests to borrow money.

John Ciampoli, the county attorney, said Nassau is still working on creating an efficient way to route contracts through his office and on to NIFA.

He said Nassau also is trying to determine which contracts over $50,000 should -- and which, in the county's opinion, should not -- go before the control board.

"We don't want to be taking them over there by the truckload," Ciampoli said. "There are some that are important that we think should go and some that NIFA can figure out by looking at the county's financial information."

On the recent hiring of 141 new full-time and part-time county workers -- at a time when Mangano is asking unions for concessions -- Stack said he knew only what he had read in Newsday.

"It doesn't look like a hiring freeze to me," he said in an interview, noting that the board had no direct information from the county.

"We didn't impose a freeze; the county did," he said. "In the private sector, that would mean that every hire would have to be essential. A hiring freeze is supposed to be a hiring freeze."

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said, "We never had a hiring freeze. We had a nonessential hiring freeze." He noted that most of the hiring, such as that at the Board of Elections, was done outside of Mangano's direct control.

Sparring between Nassau and NIFA is to be expected, especially as both sides determine the best way to work with each other. But at some point, Nassau's got to stop splitting hairs, and trying to slap happy faces on a serious fiscal crisis.

At this point, it's about nuts, bolts and whatever else it will take to set Nassau's finances right.