The lack of an executive director at the Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs could “create a vacuum and rob the department of the needed leadership,” a new report from the county’s legislative budget review office says.
The report states that the minority affairs office, which is run by an acting executive director, "is not currently fully staffed. Including the executive director position, OMA is operating with five open, funded vacancies.”
The report also said, “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. 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.”
During a minority affairs legislative committee hearing held Tuesday, Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) said, "Undoubtedly, a strong and consistent leader at the helm is required.”
Evlyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development, said the minority affairs office has four full-time employees and that more will be hired.
“We fully understand that we have not staffed up this office, that there is authorized vacant head count that needs to be filled," Tsimis said. “To be frank, the holdup has been that we do not have a permanent executive director. The County Executive is anxious to have a permanent executive director in this position."
After Nassau County Executive Laura Curran took office in 2018, Farrah Mozawalla served as the agency's acting executive director. She is now deputy director, and former Minority Affairs Council Chair Regina Williams is currently the office's acting executive director. Earlier this week, Curran said she would recommend Mozawalla to serve as executive director of the newly established Office of Asian-American Affairs.
County officials cited delays with the selection process. The Minority Affairs Council can recommend an executive director, and the Republican-controlled legislature has final say.
Mozawalla "was never confirmed by the legislature" and another candidate [Erika Hill, who was backed by Curran] "did not move forward in the legislative process," county spokesman Jordan Carmon said in an email. Earlier this year, the Minority Affairs Council recommended an unnamed candidate to the county executive "who lacked the required minimum educational background" for the job and "was not forthright in the application/interview process," Carmon wrote.
Tsimis, in her presentation to the legislature, touted efforts to attract more minority vendors. She said the administration will file legislation to rename the Coordinated Agency for Spanish Americans to the Office of Hispanic Affairs. The office's staff would move from the basement of the Hempstead building to another floor.
The report also noted that 10.1 percent of county contracts was awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses, a slight drop from 11.3 in 2017 and 10.4 in 2016. The report also noted that spending on contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses was 11.1 percent in 2018, down slightly from 11.9 percent in 2017.
The report also noted that the share of county contracts going to minority- and women-owned business enterprises — now about 10 percent — is lower than federal or state targets. Funding could be "at risk" if Nassau is found "noncompliant" with federal and state targets, budget director Maurice Chalmers wrote.
Nassau officials disputed that concern, saying a "disparity study" will be used to set target contracting goals. County departments "continue to be in compliance with mandated percentage goals for projects with federal and state monies," spokeswoman Christine Geed said.