Jack Schnirman, Nassau County’s comptroller-elect, said he will look for top staff beyond political party loyalists and old government hands as he seeks to broaden the mission of the office.
“We’re going to take an expansive, aggressive approach to the office to provide the sort of independent watchdog residents are looking for,” said Schnirman, a Democrat.
Schnirman also pledged to closely monitor the fiscal practices of incoming Democratic County Executive Laura Curran, despite having run on her ticket in the election.
“We have to do exactly what we said we’re going to do,” Schnirman said. “That’s how you rebuild trust in government.”
Schnirman, 40, the Long Beach city manager, last week defeated Republican Steve Labriola, a former chief deputy county comptroller, by fewer than two percentage points, according to unofficial election results.
Schnirman has turned his attention to filling the dozen appointed positions he’ll soon control, and said he is seeking resumes at the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schnirman said he couldn’t promise that all his hires will lack political connections. But he expressed confidence that they’ll largely be “reform-oriented professionals,” including people with experience in investigative auditing, forensic accounting, labor law and performance analytics.
Such skills are necessary, Schnirman said, because he plans to conduct new types of audits — such as documenting nepotism in county employment — in addition to performing typical duties of analyzing county budgets and reviewing vendor claims for payment.
Schnirman has met with predecessors Howard Weitzman, a Democrat who served from 2002-2009 while Democrat Thomas Suozzi was county executive, and outgoing Comptroller George Maragos, who switched from Republican to Democrat in 2016.
Maragos said he told Schnirman, “to always keep in mind he works for the taxpayers, on behalf of taxpayers. Always try to do the best for them, notwithstanding relationships with the party or administration.”
Weitzman, a board member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, Nassau’s financial control board, said he told Schnirman “to maintain the independence of the office. If the perception ever changes that the office isn’t independent, he loses all credibility.”
During the campaign, Curran and Schnirman pledged to work together to improve transparency and ethics.
“The way I see it, it’s obviously a partnership, but one that wouldn’t compromise either of us in our duties,” Curran said. “I expect him to hold me accountable and everybody else in county government.”