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Jack Schnirman launches audit of Nassau parks nonprofit

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman at the Town

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh on Feb. 1. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman is launching an audit of Friends of Nassau County Recreation, a nonprofit that helps Nassau run the Long Island Marathon and has been a booster for county parks under previous administrations.

Schnirman’s review comes five years after a critical audit of Friends by his predecessor, George Maragos.

In 2013, the comptroller’s office cited poor record-keeping and cash flow issues, along with failures to appoint enough board members, as required by law. The group in some cases paid sales taxes unnecessarily, when it should have asserted its tax-exempt status as a nonprofit, the Maragos audit said.

Schnirman said his review, in part, will determine whether recommendations issued by Maragos had been followed. Maragos’ recommendations included filling vacant board positions and tightening control over cash collections.

In 2015, federal prosecutors subpoenaed records from Maragos’ office seeking those relating to Friends of Nassau County Recreation, Maragos told Newsday in 2016. Maragos said he did not know what investigators were looking for, and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District declined to comment Wednesday.

“As we go through the risk assessment review, our audit team has flagged the Friends of Nassau County Recreation, a nonprofit, as an organization that would merit an audit,” Schnirman, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Schnirman also said, “Now that there is a new administration in place, I’m sure it’s a good time to ask questions. It’s a good time to ask things anew.”

Democratic County Executive Laura Curran took office Jan. 1 after Republican Edward Mangano declined to seek re-election. Mangano, on trial on federal corruption charges, has pleaded not guilty.

Members of the Friends board listed on the 2015 tax filing could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The previous audit noted a 2007 Memorandum of Agreement enabling the nonprofit to use county employees to work at events, including the marathon at Eisenhower Park, that expired in May 2012. Schnirman’s office said the agreement had not been extended. Friends’ main office is in Eisenhower Park.

Friends of Nassau County Recreation was formed in 1980, according to the 2013 audit, to foster appreciation for the county’s parks and museums. Friends reported $1.1 million in total revenues, and $1.046 million in expenses in 2015, according to the most recent federal 990 tax form available on Guidestar, a database that tracks nonprofit profiles. The group’s mission is to “serve Nassau County parks and museums,” according to the forms.

The organization averaged more than $638,000 in receipts over two years for a number of county programs or events, according to the 2013 audit. Revenues came from Nassau’s 9/11 Memorial, car show, African American Museum, the Old Bethpage Village Restoration and other sources.

A spokesman for Curran declined to comment on the audit.

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