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Nassau lawmakers fail to act on settlement

Renaire Frierson talks about being reinstated to her

Renaire Frierson talks about being reinstated to her former position as the Executive Director of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission while behind her on left is her attorney Frederick Brewington. Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile, 2008

A nearly $900,000 settlement was delayed Monday when the Nassau County Legislature failed to vote to borrow money to pay Renaire Frierson, who was fired as county human rights chief in 2008.

"At this time, we don't have the bipartisan commitment to settle the case," said Presiding Officer Norma L. Gonsalves, (R-East Meadow), who did not call the item on the agenda. "We met with the Democrats, and they never indicated they would support it."

The GOP has a 10-9 majority but bonding needs 13 votes.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, (D-Freeport), said the Democrats actually would have voted for the settlement.

"We intended to vote so that Ms. Frierson could be paid, but the item was never called by the presiding officer." he said.

Frierson claimed she was fired because she was black, female and a Republican. Frierson, a former deputy mayor of Freeport Village, had been counsel to the human rights commission before her appointment as executive director in 2001. Frierson clashed frequently with Democrats after they took power from Republicans in Nassau in 2002.

County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, a Democrat, later criticized her for lax oversight of commission staff and for submitting time sheets showing she was working for the county when she was teaching at Nassau Community College. Frierson said county officials approved her college work.

County Attorney John Ciampoli said Monday that the settlement "is the proper way for the county to go and to address this matter and put it behind us."

Frierson's attorney, Frederick Brewington of Hempstead, said he was "concerned and disappointed by the legislature . . . and I'm hoping to learn how quickly they can remedy this."

The next scheduled meeting of the full legislature is May 20.

The settlement must also be approved by County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls Nassau's finances.

In other matters, a Rules Committee in a special meeting unanimously approved a 10-year lease for the New York Cosmos soccer club to practice at Mitchel Field. The team has agreed to pay about $425,000 to renovate the field and locker rooms, officials said.

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