Jodi Franzese, shown in December 2018.

Jodi Franzese, shown in December 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Jodi Franzese, in an abrupt reversal, said she would remain as Nassau County's inspector general after the county district attorney's office withdrew its offer for her to lead its public corruption bureau.

Franzese, the county's first inspector general, was supposed to start as a bureau chief under Republican District Attorney Anne Donnelly on June 2, and had  accepted an offer letter in writing, she said.

Franzese submitted her resignation as inspector general in May, weeks after majority Republicans on the Nassau County Legislature had declined to reappoint her to a second four-year term. Franzese's first term expired at the end of last year.

In March, legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the next county legislature, which will take office in January, should decide whether Franzese gets a new term.

Nicolello is retiring at the end of this year, as is Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and several other long-serving legislators. After completion of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process, legislators are running in newly drawn districts.

Franzese confirmed the district attorney's offer had fallen through, saying staff told her last month "the needs of the office have changed, and they could no longer offer me the position."

Franzese said the district attorney's office offered her a lower-salaried position in another bureau, but not as a bureau chief. Franzese declined the job.

Brendan Brosh, a district attorney spokesman, said he could not comment on personnel matters.

Franzese said in a statement that legislative leaders have assured her she can work as inspector general through the end of the year. "It remains to be seen whether I will be offered the opportunity to be reappointed to a fixed term," she said.

Franzese had been in an uncertain position before her decision to join the district attorney's office. She can remain in the role as a holdover, but experts have said an inspector general is most effective when serving a fixed term, and thus is less vulnerable to political interference.

"Sometimes the IG might have to go against either the County Executive's wishes or the legislature's wishes — that's not easy to do," Nassau Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said.

DeRiggi-Whitton questioned whether the administration of Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman "values the position of the inspector general … It looks like you're trying to avoid someone capable in that position, and that doesn't send a good message."

Republicans said they made no effort to influence the district attorney's decisions about Franzese.

Asked if Blakeman or members of his administration had reached out to Donnelly about the bureau chief role, county spokesman Chris Boyle said, "absolutely not."

Mike Deery, a spokesman for the Nassau Republican Committee, said chairman Joseph Cairo "did not speak to the DA or any other people from the district attorney's office" about Franzese.

"There has been no interference from the Nassau County Republican Committee," Deery said.

Nicolello said in a statement he welcomed "the IG to remain in the position and am confident she will continue to serve with the same professionalism and dedication that has been shown through her tenure.”

As inspector general, Franzese's purview includes activities by Republican and Democratic county officials, but she needs approval by the GOP-led  legislature for another full term.

The Nassau inspector general reviews public contracts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars annually, including for land deals and construction projects. The office also fields complaints about public corruption and reviews whether prospective vendors have disclosed conflicts of interests.

The legislature created the inspector general's position in 2017, weeks after Democrat Laura Curran was elected county executive. Blakeman defeated Curran in 2021.

Democrats proposed creation of the office after corruption scandals involving Republicans such as former County Executive Edward Mangano and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre.

Appointment of a new inspector general would require a supermajority of 13 votes on the county legislature. Republicans have a 12-7 majority, so would need one Democratic vote to push through an appointment.

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