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Long Beach will seek to recoup improper payouts, official said

Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin and

Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin and Long Beach City Council President Anissa Moore hold a news conference in Long Beach Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Beach City Council President Anissa Moore said the city would seek to recoup separation payments made to current and former employees after a draft of a state audit found that the city overpaid the workers more than $500,000.

Moore spoke at a news conference Tuesday at Long Beach City Hall with Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, who is running for town supervisor.

“The City Council is committed to seeking full restitution,” Moore said. “We want all of our money because we’re here to make sure residents get the justice that is due to them.”

A draft audit delivered to the city last week said 10 employees, including former City Manager Jack Schnirman, received separation payments that exceeded the city’s caps of 30 percent sick time and vacation time of 50 days or 400 hours.

Schnirman received a $108,000 payout when he left to be Nassau County comptroller, including all of his 878 hours of sick time and 419 vacation hours.

Schnirman has said he relied on the city to calculate his accrued time and he would return any funds found to be paid in error. He declined to comment further on Tuesday.

 On Tuesday night at the City Council meeting, Moore said the panel's majority had hired outside counsel to review the audit and “draft resolutions for necessary corrective actions.”

“The audit’s findings are disturbing and warrants further council action,” Moore said. 

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is continuing to investigate whether there is any criminal conduct. Moore said council members would meet with the district attorney’s office later this week to offer assistance and cooperation in the investigation.

District attorney's office officials declined to comment Tuesday on any future meetings.

The audit found the city’s payout structure has been out of compliance with city code for years.

City officials told the state comptroller that the City Council approved a retirement incentive in 2012 for both union and exempt employees. The city interpreted its code to allow exempt and management employees to be entitled to no less than 30 percent of accrued sick time, multiplied by the rate of pay.

“This didn’t start yesterday. This is something that has been going on for a very long time,” Moore said. “So for 25 years, the residents here have carried the burden of this mismanagement.”

Clavin called on Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen to fire her chief of staff, James LaCarrubba, the former Long Beach public works director. He previously said LaCarrubba and Schnirman should resign.

 “While I maintain my position that I will not play into desperate campaign tactics, I welcome an investigation into the facts, which will show that I committed no wrongdoing,” LaCarrubba said Tuesday. 

LaCarrubba retired from Long Beach in 2016 and received a $65,435 payout. He was hired back the same year as a part-time $39,000 labor relations secretary and a consultant on superstorm Sandy projects.

In August 2017, his salary increased to $130,000 when he was hired back full time. He left the city in October 2017 and received a $20,967 payout.

He was hired by Gillen in January to be her $175,000 chief of staff.

“Our public officials have to be held to a higher standard. Jim LaCarrubba is an example of what is wrong,” Clavin said. “Jim LaCarrubba should answer questions.”

Gillen’s campaign manager Michael Ousley rejected Clavin’s calls to fire LaCarrubba. He argued Clavin was deflecting from a federal investigation surrounding the Malibu Beach Club contract and the $1.1 million paid over 10 years to Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo and his son for work related to the town-owned facility.

“The Receiver’s claims are meritless and designed to distract the public from the ongoing Town of Hempstead corruption scandal involving the Nassau County Republican chair,” Ousley said in a statement.

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