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Most Nassau appointed, elected officials got average 7.3% raises

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, Feb. 7, 2017,

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, Feb. 7, 2017, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

More than three-quarters of Nassau County’s full-time nonunion workers received raises last year worth nearly $3.5 million, with over half the total going to employees in the office of District Attorney Madeline Singas.

A total of 553 of the 723 appointed and elected Nassau officials on the payroll at some point in 2016 received at least one raise last year, averaging $6,325, or 7.3 percent, county comptroller records show.

Many got two or three increases, some linked to promotions. Dozens of county appointees received pay hikes of between $10,000 and $60,000.

The raises are awarded at the discretion of County Executive Edward Mangano or officials who run individual departments and agencies.

In Suffolk, all of the 532 full-time nonunion employees, including elected officials, receive the same percentage raises as the 4,500 members of the Association of Municipal Employees, the county’s largest union. In 2016, the salary hike was 3 percent, plus step increases of 4.4 percent.

Raises for Suffolk nonunion workers totaled $3.2 million last year, averaging 6.5 percent, with the office of District Attorney Thomas Spota, a Democrat, accounting for half the total spending on salary increases.

In Nassau, raises for management employees, many of whom have political connections and can be hired or fired at will, jumped from 2015, when the county awarded $1 million in raises to 104 appointees, county records show.

The raises came as Nassau struggled with operating deficits. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board that controls the county’s finances, projects a $100 million deficit this year.

Suffolk faces a $135 million budget deficit, according to legislative analysts.

Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Nassau’s Civil Service Employees Association, said management appointees should receive raises in line with those for union staffers.

“We are just looking to be treated equally,” said Laricchiuta, who represents around 6,000 Nassau members. “That’s not happening right now.”

Adam Barsky, the chairman of NIFA, said raises for nonunion staffers should not exceed the rate of inflation, which was just over 2 percent in 2016, “unless tied to a promotion or explicitly justified.”

But Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance, defended the raises.

“These managers helped end 2016 with an $80 million budgetary surplus and the adjustments simply place appointees in line with union employees,” said Naughton, whose 3.5 percent increase brought his salary to $175,020 last year.

Democratic county legislators and some NIFA board members said the surplus appeared only after Mangano borrowed $60 million to pay tax refunds and $40 million for court settlements. NIFA’s budget calculations exclude borrowing, one-time revenues and savings from deferred pension payments.

Blair Horner, executive director of the nonprofit New York Public Interest Research Group, called the raises for Nassau appointees a “mistake.” Horner noted the arrest last year of Mangano on federal corruption charges, including receiving bribes from a businessman who allegedly gave Mangano’s wife, Linda, a no-show job. The Manganos have pleaded not guilty.

“Given the county’s financial and ethical problems, the county should have a more public process in how it awards raises,” Horner said. “Giving out raises behind closed doors without public input only exacerbates political cynicism.”

Mangano in July opted to receive a $17,007 annual salary increase, bringing his annual pay to $191,621. Mangano, a Republican, had declined automatic cost-of-living hikes since his election in 2010 but opted for a retroactive raise last year.

Deputy County Executive Ed Ward told Newsday in October that Mangano did not to take the pay raises “during our most financially pressing times.”

Singas, a Democrat, received two raises last year totaling $27,000 — an automatic $8,000 increase when she took office last January as the elected district attorney, and an increase, to $193,000, last April. That was mandated by state law requiring district attorneys to be paid the same as State Supreme Court justices in their jurisdictions. The state pays $76,793 of Singas’ salary.

More than half the $3.49 million in raises last year for Nassau nonunion workers went to 207 district attorney staffers, comptroller records show.

Singas awarded raises of 3.75 percent, plus an additional $1,000, on Jan. 1, 2016, to 85 assistant district attorneys who were making less than $75,000. All other assistant district attorneys and exempt employees received pay increases of 3.75 percent. In July, Singas gave another 3.5 percent raise to all assistant district attorneys and exempt staff.

A key reason for the raises was the fact that, on average, prosecutors in Nassau earn less than counterparts in Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and New York City at every stage of their careers, said Singas spokesman Brendan Brosh. For instance, a sixth-year Nassau prosecutor makes an average of $71,686, compared with $82,267 in Suffolk and $95,010 in Westchester.

Brosh received a 52 percent increase in 2016, bringing his salary to $129,375, after becoming communications director.

“This office cannot tackle complex priorities like heroin, corruption, cybercrime, and gang violence without experienced and well-trained prosecutors, and we cannot retain talented ADAs when they are lowest paid in the region,” Singas said in a statement.

Countywide, the largest salary hike for an appointed employee went to former Legis. Francis Becker. The Lynbrook Republican, who did not seek re-election in 2015, was hired by Mangano as his $100,000-per-year legislative liaison. He was making $39,500 in the legislature.

Mangano’s deputy county executives and department heads, including Sheriff Michael Sposato, Assessor James Davis and County Attorney Carnell Foskey, got 3.5 percent raises — less than the 7.3 percent average. Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter received a 3.1 percent hike, bringing his salary to $244,535.

Other increases went to:

  • The county legislature, where 40 of 69 nonunion employees received wage hikes averaging $5,637, or 8.5 percent.
  • The Board of Elections, which awarded raises to seven of 27 appointees averaging $7,242, or 5.1 percent.
  • Maragos’ office, which gave raises to four of 17 staffers, averaging $6,000 or 6.9 percent.
  • County Clerk Maureen O’Connell’s office, which gave raises to six of nine staffers, averaging $3,908, or 4.5 percent.

The average raise last year for Nassau County’s 6,000 union workers, including police, was 3.5 percent, plus contractually mandated step increases.

Nassau and Suffolk County officials did not respond to requests for comment from employees mentioned in this story or the accompanying chart.

In Suffolk last year, raises in Spota’s office were due largely to a new “skilled attorney retention program” in the 2015 budget that increased the pay scale in the office.

Raises for 185 employees totaled $1.53 million, averaging 8.5 percent, records show. Sixteen attorneys making less than $86,000 a year got raises of 17 percent or more. Spota’s top deputy, Chief Assistant County Attorney Emily Constant, received a $13,259 hike to bring her salary to $186,798.

Spota spokesman Robert Clifford said the new salary scale was the first adjustment in the office in 15 years.

Clifford noted that most employees are attorneys, who earn more on average than most other nonunion employees. “This would account for the DA’s office receiving about half of the monetary amount in raises,” Clifford said in a statement.

In Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, raises for nonunion staff averaged 8.7 percent. Three of the top 10 raises to nonunion employees countywide — each totaling more than $19,000 a year — went to staff in the county executive’s office. All 11 of the top dollar raises in the county went to women.

“It’s disappointing that in 2017, Newsday would highlight the promotion of women in my administration in a manner that somehow suggests it’s wrong for them to receive at or near equal pay to their male counterparts that they replaced,” Bellone said in a statement.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini received a nearly 12 percent raise, or $17,878 a year, when Bellone promoted him from deputy commissioner.

Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said contract savings negotiated for AME employees — including a requirement that new hires pay a portion of health care costs and wait longer for automatic wage increases — also apply to exempt employees.

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