Nassau prosecutors on Monday charged a former North Hempstead Town employee with embezzling more than $98,000 from the town’s Solid Waste Management Authority.
Helen McCann, 51, of Roslyn Heights, pleaded not guilty to the charges at First District Court in Hempstead after turning herself in to authorities. She was released conditionally on probation and ordered to surrender her passport.
Prosecutors alleged that McCann, over a 20-month period, took the money that was charged to residents or developers dropping off yard waste or debris from construction and demolition projects. McCann was responsible for transferring the cash to a bank account after other employees had weighed the materials and collected the fees.
North Hempstead Town officials alerted the Nassau County district attorney’s office last month when they discovered a “significant decrease in revenue,” according to the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors said that McCann’s weekly deposits into the bank account were “often less than the amount of the cash reported on the scale reports.” McCann often did not make any deposits, prosecutors said in a news release.
“For more than a year and a half the defendant allegedly stole money in increments from the Town of North Hempstead and amassed more than $98,000 in ill-gotten gains,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in the release.
McCann is the first person in New York State to be charged at arraignment with grand larceny in the second degree as a public corruption crime, according to Justin Mason, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. A 2014 state law enhanced penalties for crimes such as grand larceny when they involve an official committing public corruption.
McCann is also charged with second-degree corrupting the government. McCann’s next court date is March 3, and if convicted, she faces a maximum of 8 1⁄3 years to 25 years in prison. She did not speak during the hearing and declined to comment through her attorney, Edward Lieberman of Sea Cliff.
Lieberman said at the arraignment the charges were a “complete fabrication” and that many other officials handled the money before it got to her. She was “the last one to get it,” Lieberman said. He added that when McCann was terminated by the town on Jan. 21, officials did not provide a reason. Lieberman blamed her termination on other “issues between her and her immediate supervisors.” The termination was approved by the town board at its Jan. 26 meeting.
The solid waste authority accepts waste at “Resident Drop-Off” programs on Sundays, charging $5 for the first 100 pounds delivered per vehicle, and $1 for each additional 20 pounds. Employees receive the cash, write receipts, and record the amount of garbage and cash collected into a computer program.
McCann, who made $56,650 in annual salary, had worked for North Hempstead since 1998. She had been the longtime secretary to former town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, but was transferred to the Solid Waste Management Authority’s offices in Port Washington in January 2014, several weeks after Supervisor Judi Bosworth took office.
Prosecutors said McCann embezzled $98,862.91 from the authority between May 11, 2014, and Jan 11, 2016. The town’s solid waste department has struggled financially in the past few years. The 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, released in July, found revenues for the overall Solid Waste Management Authority were under budget by $1,225,300 “primarily due to reduced solid waste tonnage processed at the facility.”
Several of McCann’s relatives have had longtime jobs with the town. Her brother Thomas Tiernan is the highway superintendent, North Hempstead’s highest-paid official who made $165,000 in base pay and overtime in 2014, according to Newsday’s town payroll database. Another brother, John Tiernan, is a highway construction supervisor who was paid $110,000 in 2014. Tom Tiernan’s wife, Jill Guiney, is the town’s deputy commissioner of public works who made $124,000 that year. Tiernan’s son is a “labor” employee for the parks department.
McCann’s husband James McCann accompanied her at the arraignment. He is a Nassau County Corrections seargent and former chief of the Roslyn Highlands Hook & Ladder, Engine & Hose Company who has been recognized by the State Legislature for his service.