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Nassau comptroller will go to court to enforce IDA subpoenas

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12,

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County comptroller’s office will go to court next week to enforce its subpoenas filed against the Town of Hempstead and the Hempstead Industrial Development Authority over tax breaks granted to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream.

Comptroller George Maragos is conducting an audit into the tax breaks, which some have said led to steep property tax hikes for Valley Stream residents. The IDA has said that other factors were involved in the tax increase, including school district budgeting practices.

The subpoenas — which seek documents from the IDA and the Town of Hempstead relating to a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, the IDA granted to the mall’s owner, California-based Macerich — were originally due Nov. 16.

The town has said it does not have any documents about the agreement. The IDA says that while it believes the comptroller’s office has no authority to audit it, it will sit down with auditors to go over the documents. The county attorney told the IDA last week that it had until Monday to comply with the subpoenas.

“The Town of Hempstead and Hempstead IDA in refusing to voluntarily provide subpoenaed documents that should be public, only heightens concern that the PILOTs may have been illegally issued,” said Maragos, who is running for county executive, in a statement on Tuesday. “They are now intent on wasting more taxpayer money with attorneys to stonewall in court an audit by the County Comptroller.”

IDA board chairman Arthur Nastre said on Tuesday the agency believes Maragos has “no legal right to the documents” because the IDA is a state-chartered agency.

“It’s not like you can put them in a shopping bag and bring them over,” Nastre said.

Maragos has said he does not want auditors to go on a “wild goose chase” and the IDA must deliver the documents to his office.

The comptroller’s office will be represented in State Supreme Court in Mineola by attorneys from Lynn, Gartner, Dunne and Covello LLP of Mineola.

The IDA plans to hold a public meeting in January in Valley Stream to hear residents’ concerns about the Green Acres Mall agreement before it decides whether it will revoke the PILOT deal. A date and location have not been determined.

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