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Records: Schnirman paid for more sick days than he was entitled to after Long Beach exit

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who had resigned

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who had resigned as Long Beach city manager in January 2018, had never signed his termination pay agreements, which ask him to certify that the reported time and money owed him were correct, records show. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Nassau Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who received $108,000 for unused time when he resigned as Long Beach city manager in January 2018, was paid for more sick days than he was entitled to after six years on the job, earning about an extra $6,640, a review of public records shows.

Records also show Schnirman never signed his termination pay agreements, which ask him to certify that the reported time and money owed him were correct.

Newsday reported in May 2018 that Schnirman received full pay for unused sick days even though city code and his employment contract limited payment to 30 percent of the accumulated sick days.

Sources say federal investigators in recent weeks interviewed current and former Long Beach City Council members about Schnirman’s termination pay for the first time since controversy over city employee payouts began in April 2018.

Investigators for the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, sources say, asked questions about the council’s oversight of Schnirman’s employment contracts and the money he received for unused vacation and sick days after he resigned Jan. 1, 2018. Schnirman, a Democrat, took office that day as the newly elected Nassau County comptroller.

In some conversations, sources say, investigators focused on the 30 percent limit on sick-time payouts.

Also, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, both elected Democrats, have been investigating Long Beach payouts for more than a year. Spokeswomen for both declined to comment because their investigations are ongoing.

The city council approved three two-year contracts for Schnirman but members have said they had no oversight of the payouts, which typically are approved by the city manager.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Schnirman said he depended on city staff to calculate his time and that he would cooperate with investigators.

“I welcome any and all professional reviews of how the City of Long Beach has processed and compensated earned leave obligations over a period of many years and several administrations,” Schnirman said in a statement. “I’m not going to get involved in the political games of trying to undercut a professional review.”

Schnirman continued: “When it comes to how my time was processed and compensated, here are the facts — like any management employee, I documented my time. Like any management employee, those records were submitted to the payroll department. Like any management employee, the professional staff processed those records and ultimately calculated any payments I earned for accrued time.”

“As I’ve said previously, my understanding is that all earned leave payments were calculated properly and policies executed with the advice of counsel. If a professional review shows the City of Long Beach made any error in my payment, I would seek to return any funds paid in error, as I trust anyone would do.”

Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, provided Newsday with public records gathered by a group of Long Beach residents through Freedom of Information requests. The records include six years of Schnirman time sheets from January 2012, when he started as city manager, through 2017. Newsday provided the time sheets to Schnirman.

Schnirman said in a statement, “I cannot verify potentially incomplete documents provided by a third party, or any analysis done based on them. As I said, my information was submitted over six years like any other management employee to the city’s payroll department.”

Ford said residents requested from the city all documents related to the payouts.

Long Beach residents, including Ford, have been demanding investigations since April 2018 when the city council refused to borrow $2.1 million to cover payouts already made to employees and retirees, including Schnirman.

City officials warned Long Beach could run out of money without the borrowing, and proposed a large property tax increase.

In June 2019, a state board that analyzed Long Beach finances reported that the city had adopted four consecutive budgets with overestimated revenues and underestimated expenses, resulting in four deficits over the past four years. It projected a $1 million deficit in 2019.

“Long Beach has borrowed $15 million since 2012 to fund high-cost separation payouts, made possible by generous time accrual policies,” the State Financial Restructuring Board reported. “The board has yet to encounter a municipality in the state that provides payouts of this magnitude.”

Newsday reported last year that Schnirman, who earned an annual salary of $173,871, was overpaid more than $53,000 when he left the city. Newsday reported that Schnirman was paid for slightly more than 52 vacation days — even though his contract and the city code limit termination pay to 50 unused vacation days.

Newsday also reported that he received full pay for 110 unused sick days, instead of 30 percent as stipulated in his contract and the code.

But the records Ford provided show he could have accumulated only 100 sick days during his six years in Long Beach, including incentive days granted to union employees.

Schnirman subordinates approved his separation pay, which was recorded on two reports.

The city code and Schnirman’s contract say exempt nonunion appointees such as Schnirman are entitled to many of the same benefits as members of the city’s Civil Service Employees Association. But both the code and Schnirman’s contract say accrued sick days will be paid at 30 percent.

Schnirman’s work time sheets show he used one sick day in 2016. He also reported taking a total of about 17 personal days and 30 vacation days over six years. His time sheets indicate he took no time off during 2012, his first year as city manager.

According to union rules for personal days, Schnirman could convert unused personal days to sick time and qualify for two additional personal days a year under certain conditions if he used no sick time. But even adding converted time still brought total sick days Schnirman could have accumulated to 100.

At 100 percent pay, the 10 extra days amounted to an additional payment of about $6,640.

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