About 20 civic activists gathered outside the Mineola office of Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos Thursday to protest his decision to reduce the auditing of special taxing districts, which have been criticized by his predecessor for waste and abuse.
"We are here today to tell our comptroller that this policy is unacceptable. We the people cannot stand by and allow our elected officials to look the other way or pass the buck," Laura Mallay of Residents for Efficient Special Districts said.
Maragos had said he would not conduct any audits of special districts this year, and would limit those audits next year to districts where problems had been uncovered in an audit by his predecessor, Howard Weitzman, a Democrat. He said he had "not seen any credible formal analysis that would support the wholesale consolidation of special districts."
Maragos, a Republican, said in an interview after the demonstration that while he did not see the need for widespread action, he did not oppose consolidation of districts that had been shown to operate wastefully.
He said some of those districts had been identified in Weitzman's audits, but he refused to say which ones should be dissolved or consolidated. "That is up to residents of the district," he said.
A new state law creates a uniform way for localities and voters to consolidate or dissolve special districts, and Maragos said he made public his position two days later to clarify the role he would take.
At the demonstration, Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition said Maragos was abdicating his duties. "We need this comptroller to do his job, which is to audit special districts," she said. Fred Gorman of Long Islanders for Educational Reform said political leaders should push for consolidation of district functions to save money.
"We have over 700 districts sucking the life blood out of us and it's got to stop," Gorman said.
Pat Nicolosi of the Elmont East End Civic Association said private firms are consolidating during this economic downturn, and government should also.