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Nassau Republican lawmakers knock NIFA for hiring labor lawyer

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello at the Nassau County

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello at the Nassau County Legislature's meeting Monday in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republican lawmakers called for the removal of the directors of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority for spending $125,000 on its labor lawyer despite what they claimed were stalled union contract talks, while the Curran administration said the Nassau Police Benevolent Association has "refused" to come to the negotiating table.

The comments Monday exposed a tense climate among county officials and labor union negotiators, 18 months after contracts expired for the county's major unions.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park)  called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to remove the NIFA board members. Nicolello also said the contract that NIFA approved in December with Gary Dellaverson of Westchester County to represent NIFA in union talks should be cancelled. 

Republicans also called on the state comptroller’s office to audit NIFA.

Last year, the legislature rejected the Curran administration's request to hire Dellaverson to negotiate on behalf of the county. Lawmakers cited concerns about Dellaverson's pay and the availability of other law firms.

“Basically, all they’ve done at this point is have some meetings to get acquainted. There’s no serious negotiations going on,” Nicolello said during a news conference Monday outside the legislative and executive building in Mineola.

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said, “In my opinion, Mr. Dellaverson is the best at what he does, as a labor attorney and negotiator, and I am very happy that he is part of our team. His fees are in line with what other governmental entities the size and complexity of Nassau County have paid, and are immaterial considering the value of the labor contracts that he will be negotiating.”

Curran said in a statement: "Nassau County and NIFA are approaching these labor negotiations with the diligence and sensitivity and that is required. ... The GOP majority is sadly misinformed. We are making progress at the bargaining table with every union except one — the PBA, which have refused to meet. NIFA and the County working together is called cooperation."

Representatives for Cuomo did not respond to an inquiry. Dellaverson deferred comment to NIFA. Tania Lopez, a spokeswoman for the state comptroller's office, said, "Once we receive an official request to audit, it will be reviewed.”

PBA president James McDermott said: "It’s the PBA’s contention...that [Dellaverson] doesn't belong in the room. Negotiations are between the employer and the employee, not the oversight board.”

McDermott said he has only met once, in summer 2018, with the county to discuss a new PBA contract.

Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, Nassau Local 830, said negotiations "have been slow," but "are starting to pick up. We just don't seem to be getting anywhere. We seem to be spinning our wheels." Laricchiuta said that since early spring or late winter, "we’ve had three conversations" with Dellaverson.

He said that while he's not pleased about NIFA's involvement in labor talks, "I'm doing it because we want a contract."

Also Monday, a key legislative committee approved a plan for a $66 million bond to reroute Long Beach sewage to the county’s treatment facility and stop the flow of sewage into Reynolds Channel. But final approval could come up next at the legislature's next meeting on July 15. The full legislature did not take up the proposal based on an emergency request from the Curran administration.

The legislature also approved a contract to begin work to fund a study to remediate Crescent Beach, and a resolution directing the county to conduct a study of airplane noise caused by arrivals and departures from LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. The legislature also authorized a $2.462 million contract to pay for police vehicles in a joint program with Suffolk and Westchester counties.

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