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NIFA on Nassau police union deal: It may be illegal

Nassau police officers would receive their first salary

Nassau police officers would receive their first salary increase in nearly two years while newly hired cops would contribute to their health care and pension plans for the first time under a deal reached this week between County Executive Edward Mangano and the Police Benevolent Association. (Feb. 26, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser

Nassau's financial control board Monday criticized County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed contract with the county's largest police union, saying the deal appears flawed and possibly illegal.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority's board of directors issued an unusual statement citing a potential problem with the pact, which was negotiated by Mangano with the county Police Benevolent Association and announced to the news media over the weekend. Union members are expected to vote on the deal before the end of the month.

NIFA cited "questionable" wage deferrals that it said cannot be used to balance the county's budget, which is supposed to be in the black by 2015. It said payment of any wages lost during an existing freeze would raise "significant legal issues."

The control board generally does not comment on contracts or budgets that have yet to be approved by the county legislature. But the board, which said in its statement that it had not been briefed on the agreement nor provided a copy, said, "We believed it important to explain the apparent flaws in what has been reported to be the basic structure of the agreement that is currently under discussion."

Mangano, a Republican running for re-election, and the 10 GOP county legislators, who are also up for election, said NIFA was not taking into consideration the cost to the county if it loses a federal PBA lawsuit challenging a wage freeze that the board imposed in 2011 at Mangano's request, spokesmen said.

"NIFA needs to be reminded that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in additional expenses at stake over and above the $320 million in savings envisioned in this agreement," said GOP legislative spokesman Frank Moroney.

PBA president James Carver said, "The deal we have entered into with the county minimizes the risk of litigation and provides structural savings going forward. I believe when NIFA looks at the total package, they will realize that it may not be everything they want, but it's a fair deal."

A federal judge ruled in February that NIFA did not have the authority to suspend contractual pay hikes and annual step increases, estimated to have saved Nassau $230 million. NIFA appealed and a decision is expected shortly.

Mangano told reporters that the proposed pact, which would extend the PBA's current contract by two years through 2017, would save Nassau $320 million while lifting the wage freeze.

Though he did not provide a copy of the agreement, he said newly hired officers would be required to contribute to their health care and pension plans for the first time and they would have to work an extra year to reach the top salary step of nearly $130,000.

Carver said current officers would receive essentially all pay lost during the wage freeze -- though Mangano aides said the payments would be deferred. Carver also said officers would receive their contractual raises of 3.5 percent this year and next, and 3.75 percent in 2015, though the pay increases would be effective July 1 instead of Jan. 1.

NIFA noted that it needs to approve any pact, and directed Nassau to turn over a copy.

But Deputy County Executive Ed Ward said NIFA was holding Mangano to a different standard than in the past when it allowed contracts with deferred and retroactive payments. "If you can show savings and it's within the county's [financial plan], then NIFA should approve it," he said.


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