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State Sen. Todd Kaminsky calls for probe of Long Beach employee payouts

The request joins others from residents and officials seeking an outside investigation into accrued time paid to 15 current and former management employees.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) asked the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night to conduct an independent investigation into payouts to management employees. (Credit: Newsday / John Asbury)

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky Tuesday night called on Long Beach to hire an outside investigator to review separation payments made to current and former city employees.

Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who made his request at the City Council meeting, joins residents and other officials who want an independent investigation after about $300,000 in payouts for accrued time off were made to 15 current and former management employees.

“I believe some of the issues front and center before the council regarding separation payments have reached a suffocating point,” Kaminsky told council members at the meeting. “People are frustrated in their inability to get answers. Every taxpayer has a right to know what happens with their tax dollars.”

City Council members Tuesday night said they did not want to interfere with an audit by the state comptroller and a review by the Nassau County district attorney's office. 

The payouts were made in December but came to light when City Council members defeated a $2.1 million bond measure in April to cover the retirements and management pay, including a $108,000 separation payment to former City Manager Jack Schnirman when he left to become Nassau County comptroller.

The city announced last month that it has ended the practice of payouts of accrued time to active employees, but said the payouts were made correctly in accordance with a 2000 memo that set the interpretation for vacation and sick time accruals.

Kaminsky said the council should “take proactive measures to find out what took place in their own shop.”

The state comptroller’s office has said it plans to audit Long Beach later this month. The Nassau County district attorney’s public corruption bureau has been investigating the city since April, but is awaiting the outcome of the comptroller’s audit, which could take six to nine months, officials said.

Long Beach City Council President Anthony Eramo said the council joined with Kaminsky in his previous request for the state comptroller to conduct an audit. Eramo said the council was working with the state rather than using tax dollars to pay for another outside investigator.

“There’s no one more independent,” Eramo said of the state comptroller's office. “What’s more independent than another agency we’re not paying for?”

Kaminsky later said it would be left to the City Council to conduct an internal investigation and find experts to gather information. He said it would be up to council members and the residents to determine how much that would be worth. 

The City Council cut off Kaminsky's speaking time at the three-minute mark, which Eramo said was consistent with all public speakers.

Residents at the meeting called for a federal investigation because, they said, they did not trust State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli as a former backer of Schnirman. Kaminsky said he had no reason to doubt the comptroller and district attorney's findings.

"I expect these government officials to be thorough, but on their own timeline," Kaminsky said after the meeting. "The city should want information on their own timeline."

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