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Weitzman seeks SEC probe of Nassau accounting

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman speaks at

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman speaks at a press conference regarding allegations of Nassau County 'cooking the books' with respect to the county's finances and financial statements held at the Nassau County Legislative Building. (Sept.16, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, a Democrat who is running for his old job, said Monday that he has filed a federal complaint about what he called "false and misleading" financial reporting by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) who joined Weitzman at a news conference in Mineola, said he has asked State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit the county "to get to the bottom of these very serious allegations."

Weitzman said he has asked the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission to investigate whether Maragos and other top Republican leaders in county government postponed $88 million in judgments for property tax settlements in 2012 so that Nassau would have a surplus for the year.

Christina D'Amico, an SEC spokeswoman, said the agency would have no comment on the official complaint filed by Weitzman.

On Dec. 28, 2012, the last business day in the year, the county sought and got a two-week court deferral for paying the $88 million.

Weitzman said Maragos, a Republican, had issued "false and misleading financial statements that have deceived the public and those who purchase Nassau County bonds."

Maragos, who defeated Weitzman four years ago, dismissed the allegations. He said Nassau's "$41 million budgetary surplus has been reviewed by outside independent auditors, confirmed by the independent and nonpartisan Office of Legislative Budget Review and closely monitored by the rating agencies."

"We welcome all reviews of the county books and records from any regulatory agency," Maragos said. "The state comptroller, however, should recuse himself after having endorsed my opponent." DiNapoli endorsed Weitzman in April; his office did not return calls Monday.

Maurice Chalmers, head of the legislative budget office, declined to comment on Maragos' surplus figure. Instead he referred Newsday to an Aug. 13 memo from his office that said Nassau "was successful in getting the 2012 expenses pushed to 2013 by court order . . . and consequently did not book the expenses." The memo said the deferral provided "budgetary relief to 2012 but will add fiscal stress to the FY 2013 budget."

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