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Audit: Nassau worker failed to clock in, so he's suspended

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12,

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A part-time Nassau County employee, who also works full-time for Hempstead Town, has been suspended without pay from his county job after auditors found that he failed to clock in on numerous occasions with "unusual or no explanations."

County Comptroller George Maragos found 159 instances where Zahid Syed, the full-time $125,736-a-year economic development zone coordinator for Hempstead, reported working an eight-hour day in the town and then driving 5 miles in 15 minutes during rush hour to check in at his county job. In 95 of those instances, he punched in within five minutes after his town work day ended, auditors reported. On 67 of the days, he did not clock in to his county job as a part-time golf course attendant 1. Syed, appointed by County Executive Edward Mangano as head of the county's Human Rights Commission in 2010, reported spending up to 11 to 12 hours representing Mangano at community events. Nassau paid Syed $66,469 last year for his part-time job.

Syed, 49, of East Meadow, did not return a call for comment. He co-founded the local chapter of the South Asian-American Political Action Committee, and he and his wife have contributed more than $26,000 to Mangano and other county GOP campaign committees since 2009, records show.

After Maragos' report, Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said, "The employee in question is being reassigned to a new job task with direct supervision and will be required to punch in and out on a time clock pending the outcome of upcoming investigations."

Deery said earlier that Syed, as a manager, did not need to clock in for his full-time job, but had to report the hours he worked each day. Syed's workday is 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Deery said. Syed's town salary last year was paid from federal Community Development Block Grant funds, Deery said.

Maragos Thursday released a "limited review" of time records for the county's part-time employees that also found that 42 part-timers worked more than 39.75 hours in every biweekly pay period. The county's contract with the Civil Service Employees Association says part-timers who work more than 20 hours a week are entitled to full-time benefits, including health insurance.

Maragos began his review after Newsday reported in July that Nassau, struggling to close projected multimillion-dollar budget deficits, paid $26.6 million last year to more than 2,000 part-time and seasonal workers. Some have political or community ties or, like Syed, hold government jobs.

Some part-timers earned more than full-timers in the same job, and some appeared to do work that did not reflect their job titles. The highest paid part-timer, another golf course attendant 1, earned nearly $80,000 last year. Syed earned $50 an hour.

Maragos' review covered Jan. 1, 2013, to July 15, 2014, focusing on the five highest paid part-timers in the Newsday story. Maragos found that none of their time cards had been certified by a parks supervisor and two, including Syed, were working outside their county job titles, contrary to State Civil Service regulations.

The civil service job description says the duties of a golf attendant 1 are to enforce the rules and regulations of a golf course, including registering golfers, collecting fees, correcting rule infractions, regulating progress of play and returning caddie carts."Although only one employee was found to have possible clock-in irregularities, we have zero tolerance for employees who may attempt to cheat the county," Maragos said. He said Syed's time sheets have been referred to the Nassau district attorney's office, which confirmed receipt of the complaint, but declined to comment further.

"There's no evidence to suggest a widespread problem," said Maragos, noting the human resources department was enforcing rules more strictly. Although Maragos did not name Syed, Deputy County Executive Ed Ward confirmed that Nassau had suspended Syed, who is entitled to CSEA protection. CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta said the county notified the union Sept. 29 of Syed's suspension, giving no reason for it. Nassau has 20 days to provide the reasons, Laricchiuta said.

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