Lionel Chitty, president of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, speaks...

Lionel Chitty, president of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, speaks at a Long Island Rail Road third track hearing on Jan. 18, 2017, at Hofstra University. Credit: Steve Pfost

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has selected Lionel Chitty to serve as executive director of the Office of Minority Affairs, after her prior picks failed to gain support in the county legislature.

County legislators have criticized the administration for what they described as low staffing levels at Minority Affairs, and for failure to hire a permanent executive director. Regina Williams is serving as acting director; before that, Farrah Mozawalla, who heads the new Office of Asian American Affairs, had served as acting head of Minority Affairs.

Curran on Thursday filed a resolution to hire Chitty, who serves as executive director of the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce and works as a $25-per-hour part-time laborer for the Oyster Bay Town planning department. 

Evlyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development, said Curran chose Chitty after "an extensive search and the recommendation of the Minority Affairs Council," a panel that advises the office. "If approved by the legislature, Mr. Chitty would bring deep experience and community involvement to this important position."

The county budget allocates $110,000 for the post.

Chitty, 51, of Westhampton, said, “I appreciate the opportunity, and I hope I have the opportunity to move forward."

The minority affairs office is responsible for promoting opportunities for minority businesses. The agency also plans to lead a "disparity study" of the share of county money directed toward minority and women-owned vendors. 

An April report from the county’s legislative budget review office spotlighted the staffing issues. "For an Office with key County responsibilities, the absence of an Executive Director could create a vacuum and rob the department of the needed leadership," the report said. "It is also almost impossible for the Office to reach its full potential and perform all their duties if they don’t have the required staffing.”

County officials had blamed delays in the selection process.

According to the county charter, the minority affairs council "shall interview and recommend" potential executive director candidates to the county executive in the event of a vacancy. The nomination ultimately requires approval of the county legislature.

Mozawalla, whom Curran named as minority affairs executive director after taking office last year, was not confirmed by the legislature. Nor was another of her appointees, Erika Hill. Earlier this year, the Minority Affairs Council recommended to Curran an unnamed candidate "who lacked the required minimum educational background" for the job and "was not forthright in the application/interview process," according to the Curran administration.

Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore), chairman of the legislature's Minority Affairs Committee, said in a statement he was "pleased" that Curran "finally submitted a name for legislative approval. I look forward to reviewing Mr. Chitty’s credentials to ensure he is the best person to lead this important office."

Oyster Bay Town Joseph Saladino said in a statement, “Oyster Bay will miss all that Lionel brings to the job and we wish much success to this very talented and great guy."

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