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NIFA weighs blocking salary hikes with hiring freeze

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) meeting in Uniondale on Oct. 9, 2013. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority's board will meet within 10 days to review options for blocking salary hikes granted to nonunion employees despite a three-year wage freeze, chairman Jon Kaiman said Saturday.

"We've taken the position . . . that the whole spirit of the wage freeze and the board's understanding was that it applied to all [Nassau] county workers, union and nonunion," Kaiman said by telephone.

NIFA might impose a hiring freeze "as a mechanism to close the 'loophole' that presently exists in relation to the wage freeze," he said. This would prevent elected officials from changing appointee job titles as a backdoor way to increase their pay, he said.

County records show that 32 workers who can be hired and fired at will received pay hikes, ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 annually. Another 25 appointees received new job titles along with the increased pay, county comptroller records show.

Their increases totaled about $800,000 annually, including the cost of fringe benefits.

County officials were acting on a 2011 opinion from the former county attorney that the pay freeze does not apply to nonunion employees.

Union leaders and some NIFA board members disagree.

Kaiman said NIFA has directed the county executive, the district attorney, the comptroller, legislative leaders and the clerk to rescind any raises that violate NIFA's order.

A spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was not immediately available. On Friday, Mangano said in a letter that he will give new job titles to his appointees who got pay increases.

Because Kaiman has acknowledged that job title changes are not covered by the freeze, "we have taken steps to place employees in titles that mirror their responsibilities and to ensure that no employees in stagnant titles will receive a wage adjustment" unless the freeze is lifted, Mangano wrote.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice gave 10 raises to assistant district attorneys and 10 title changes. Her spokesman said all were promotions.

County Comptroller George Maragos last year gave raises without title changes to seven appointees. Maragos spokesman Jostyn Hernandez said Maragos was considering how to respond to NIFA's letter.

With Celeste Hadrick

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