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Nassau comptroller begins inquiry into part-time workers' hours and pay

A seasonal Nassau County employee spruces up the

A seasonal Nassau County employee spruces up the toll booths with paint on May 15, 2014, at the entrance to Nickerson Beach in Long Beach. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos has begun an inquiry into part-time employees' hours and pay to ensure they are working the time they say they are.

Maragos, a Republican, said Wednesday that he met "immediately" with his audit and payroll departments following a Newsday story Tuesday that said some parks department part-time and seasonal employees with family, community or political ties had been paid more than full-time workers in the same jobs last year, during a countywide wage freeze.

"It's the policy of this office to investigate any allegations that are brought to our attention, either though the press or residents," Maragos said. "We are continuing that policy."

He said his auditors are "looking to see whether, in fact, they did work those hours. On the surface it seems somewhat questionable or troublesome. We need to get to the bottom of it."

Maragos said he wants to make sure that no part-time employee is being paid more than 39.75 hours biweekly. The county's contract with the Civil Service Employees Association says part-timers who work 20 hours or more a week are eligible for full-time benefits.

"We want to look at all the time sheets and see who authorized their time sheets," Maragos said. "As part of the audit, we're going to go out and talk to their supervisors to confirm that these people worked these hours."

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, said, "The administration is happy to work with the comptroller on this inquiry."

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said: "While our hardworking union members were in a pay freeze, Republican patronage part-timers are laughing their way to the bank. This is unfair to both our taxpayers and the workers."

Maragos acknowledged he had requested time sheets from the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead for Zahid Syed, who last year earned $66,469.66 from the county as a $50-an-hour part-time golf course attendant and also is the full-time $125,736-a-year economic development zone coordinator for the town.

Maragos stressed he was not singling out any one worker, but looking at all part-timers who earned high pay last year.

Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said, "We'll comply with whatever the comptroller requests."

Syed could not be reached.

Newsday reported that the county paid $26 million last year to more than 2,000 part-time and seasonal workers. About half worked in the parks department, with some of them, including Syed, earning more than full-time union workers in the same and higher-level jobs.

Syed 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 Republicans.

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