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Hempstead says county comptroller is not authorized to audit animal shelter

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos speaks during a

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos speaks during a news conference at his office in Mineola on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Maragos, who is running for county executive, said he would audit Hempstead Town's animal shelter following claims of neglect. Credit: Steve Pfost

Attorneys for Hempstead Town said the Nassau County comptroller does not have the authority to audit the town’s animal shelter outside of its finances.

Comptroller George Maragos, who is running for county executive, announced last week that his office will audit the animal shelter. Auditors will inspect the shelter and look at the animals’ records and employees’ qualifications.

But town officials say Maragos’ audit must be limited to the shelter’s finances.

In a letter dated Feb. 7, Garden City-based attorney Joseph E. Macy wrote, “. . . the town will not permit this gratuitous review of the day-to-day operations of the Animal Shelter by the County Comptroller.”

Macy wrote: “. . . it appears that the audit is more about the treatment of the animals and the conditions at the Shelter and less about the finances, and thus, patently outside of the jurisdiction and audit authority of the comptroller’s office.”

Macy offered to set up a meeting between auditors and the town comptroller to discuss the shelter’s budget.

Maragos says his office is allowed to do “performance audits,” and since the town did not schedule a conference with his auditors, he plans to file subpoenas for documents and testimony as early as Thursday.

Maragos’ office tried to contact town officials directly by email to schedule the conference, but Macy wrote back in a letter dated Feb. 9 that all communication should go through his law firm.

“It shouldn’t come to this,” Maragos said Wednesday. “The public has a right to know.”

The state comptroller’s office audited the animal shelter in 2012 and discovered “an inexplicable pattern of overtime for non-operations personnel,” and poor record-keeping for veterinary care expenditures and donations, officials said.

In a 2016 state inspection, authorities rated the town’s animal shelter “satisfactory.” In a “yes or no” report, state officials gave the shelter “yes” answers in 19 categories, including if dogs are euthanized humanely and by authorized personnel.

The town touted the inspection’s results in a news release Jan. 10 as the shelter earning “perfect grades.”

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