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Nassau assessor fired after $1.3 million school tax error

County Executive Edward Mangano fired Nassau Assessor Ted Jankowski Friday morning following complaints from town officials about numerous errors in this month's school assessment roll, including an erroneous $1.3-million school tax bill for Mangano's own offices in a historic county courthouse in Garden City.

Mangano, who has made reforming the assessment system a hallmark of his 10-month-old administration, terminated Jankowski effective immediately.

"Clearly there is a lack of confidence in the assessor's office," Mangano said. "I thought having a change in leadership would revitalize the efforts within the department to be more diligent and caring in the production of the ensuing tax roll."

Mangano said he will announce a transition team on Monday. Until he appoints a permanent assessor, Chief Deputy County Attorney Lisa LoCurto will assume responsibility for overseeing department operations, he said.

Jankowski, a former Boston assessor appointed by then-Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi in January 2009, declined to comment.

Mangano, who was a county legislator at the time, voted against Jankowski's appointment. After becoming county executive, Mangano, a Republican, said he kept Jankowski "for his institutional knowledge in producing the roll."

Newsday reported this week that the Republican tax receivers in Oyster Bay and Hempstead had complained that the assessment roll they received for the Oct. 1 school tax bills had so many errors that some bills were delayed, tax exemptions were added erroneously to some properties and taken off others. They say they corrected calculation errors but could not fix exemption mistakes.

Although county property is tax-exempt, the courthouse where Mangano and county legislators have their offices was put on the tax roll, generating a $1.3-million bill to Nassau for the Garden City School District - which county taxpayers must pay.

Mangano acknowledged he could not offer an "absolute guarantee there are no further errors" that may turn up.

In reaction to Jankowski's firing, Oyster Bay Tax Receiver James Stefanich said, "I am sorry to see anybody lose their job. But as the chief assessor for the Department of Assessment, he does have a responsibility. . . . I just hope we can have that position filled with a competent individual."

Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin said, "It clearly is a first step in addressing the broken assessment system in Nassau County."

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who opposed Jankowski's appointment, said, "I have indicated since he first came here in 2009 that I had no confidence in the guy and I'm glad that he's gone."

Desmond Ryan, executive director of the business-oriented Association for a Better Long Island, said: "It wasn't that he stayed too long. Suozzi should have never appointed him. There is no correspondence course for competence."

Residential tax appeal attorney Fred Perry said homeowners will not miss Jankowski. "The public is fed up with assessors who waste time and resources fighting them rather than fixing the system."

Democrats, who voted for Jankowski, criticized Mangano. "Mr. Mangano was elected on his promise to fix the broken assessment system. He has not fixed anything," said Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove).

Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) said, "I guess it was Jankowski's turn to be the scapegoat for the failings of this administration."

With Sid Cassese

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