Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos announced Monday that he is auditing the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter after complaints from animal welfare activists.
Maragos, who is running for county executive, opened the audit on Jan. 31.
At a news conference at his Mineola office with activists, lawyers and two dogs standing behind him, Maragos said he hopes the audit will be finished within three months. Auditors will look at the animal records and employees’ qualifications and inspect the shelter, he said.
“We assigned this audit a top priority,” he said, adding that he wants to have a conference with town officials within a week and a half.
The shelter received perfect grades during its most recent state inspection, according to a town news release issued last month.
Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said in a news release Monday that Maragos was “playing politics with the town’s animal shelter.”
“He conveniently ignores the fact that a New York State audit has just awarded the town’s shelter its highest rating while the shelter maintains one of the lowest euthanasia rates of any shelter on Long Island,” Santino said.
Three shelter employees and an animal welfare activist have filed lawsuits against the shelter and Hempstead Town over allegations of retaliation after they complained about the treatment of animals at the facility.
The animals’ advocate who sued the town, Diane Madden, has been a frequent critic of the town’s operation of the shelter. Anyone who complains about the animals’ treatment faces retaliation and “all of their pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” she said Monday.
In 2012, the state comptroller’s office audited the animal shelter and found poor record-keeping for veterinary care expenditures and donations, as well as “an inexplicable pattern of overtime for non-operations personnel,” Nassau Assistant District Attorney Jed Painter said at the time.