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Long IslandPolitics

Nassau County attorney questions union pay, layoff deals

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker is seen in

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker is seen in Mineola on Thursday, March 20, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s top attorney is sharply questioning a deal negotiated by the administration’s chief deputy to restore millions of dollars in longevity payments to members of the major county unions and guarantee them no layoffs through most of next year.

In a letter Tuesday, County Attorney Carnell Foskey said Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker’s Sept. 15 memorandums of agreement with the unions “exceed the ordinary terms and usual substance” of such deals, and would need approval from the county legislature and Nassau’s financial control board.

Foskey noted that the pacts weren’t “in a proper form” to submit for those approvals, and that one clause was “factually incorrect.”

The agreements would restore annual “longevity” payments to union workers that have remained the same since 2011, when the Nassau Interim Finance Authority imposed a wage freeze.

Longevity increases were not restored as part of a 2014 deal that otherwise lifted the freeze. As a result, many county employees are owed several thousand dollars each — a $10 million cost to the county next year.

The pacts negotiated by Walker also pledged no layoffs through most of 2018, when a new county executive will be trying to balance the budget. In exchange, the unions agreed to defer half of the restored longevity pay, for a $5 million savings to Nassau.

Mangano, who is fighting federal corruption charges, is not seeking re-election in November.

Foskey, a Mangano appointee, argued that memorandums of agreement typically clarify existing provisions of a collective bargaining agreement — not expand or modify them, as a no-layoff clause and restoration of annual longevity stipends would do.

The county’s contracts with unions expire Dec. 31.

“This proposed MOA is in effect an amendment to an existing” union contract, Foskey wrote in a memo to Nassau Civil Service Association president Jerry Laricchiuta. “As such, it does not and will not have any force or effect, and it is not binding on the county.”

Laricchiuta said Wednesday that Foskey himself had approved the proposed agreements.

“You can’t have the county attorney approving language and then 10 days later telling me it’s wrong,” Laricchiuta said. “Now I have to explain to my members that the agreement we had just took a 180 because of a piece of paper that I don’t think means anything?”

Foskey didn’t address Laricchiuta’s assertion that he had approved the agreements before questioning them. But he said, “Simply put, this document is not in a proper form that can be submitted to the legislature and NIFA.”

Walker, who has acknowledged being subject to a federal probe of his awarding of county contracts to political donors, but has not been charged with any crimes, declined to comment Wednesday.

Jack Martins, the Republican candidate for county executive, said he was unaware of Walker’s agreements with the unions. Martins said he has made no promises to labor unions about restoring benefits lost during the wage freeze.

“I’ve said I will be fair with them as county executive,” said Martins, a former state senator from Old Westbury, who this week won CSEA endorsement.

County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), the Democratic candidate for county executive, said: “This is exactly what taxpayers are sick and tired of — collusion behind closed doors by county officials, this time by the chief deputy county executive who is under federal investigation.”

With Robert Brodsky

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