As Tuesday’s deadline approaches for Nassau property owners to file assessment challenges with the county’s Assessment Review Commission, the county legislature’s Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) is wondering what ever happened to Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s audit of the agency.
More than a year ago, Schnirman, a Democrat, announced he would review the agency’s handling of residents’ grievances. He said he'd pay particular attention to whether property owners who used tax challenge firms were more successful than those who protested on their own.
Schnirman, in February 2018, said the audit should take nine months.
So where is it?
“It has been over a year since the review of the grievance process was announced,” Nicolello wrote to Schnirman on April 15.
In that time, Nicolello wrote, Republican legislators have held dozens of town halls on Democratic County Executive Laura Curran’s countywide reassessment. Residents ask frequently whether their grievances will be evaluated “fairly and competently.”
Nicolello asked Schnirman to “provide the status of that review and what, if any, preliminary findings your office has made. The residents had been continually told that there will be a complete transparency in both the reassessment and grievance process. Informing residents of the progress and results of your audit will help in providing residents with the transparency that they have been promised.”
Nicolello spokesman Chris Boyle said Wednesday that the presiding officer had yet to receive a reply.
Schnirman spokesman Rob Busweiler sent Newsday a copy of an undated letter to Nicolello, signed by Schnirman, which says, “As this Office does with all its audits, we will provide a full copy of the report with all findings and recommendations to you, the rest of the Legislature, and the public when the audit is complete.”
Schnirman called it, “imperative our team of auditors be allowed to finish its work on this audit so that a complete and comprehensive independent review can be conducted. It would be improper to discuss any preliminary findings or disclose the nature of ongoing work at this time. I look forward to having a robust discussion regarding the results of our audit at the appropriate time.”
Schnirman did not give a completion date for the audit.
Busweiler said in a statement, “An audit of the Assessment Review Commission hasn’t been conducted since 2004 and as such we were surprised by the sudden request to disclose our findings before they are complete. We aren’t going to open up our independent ongoing investigation to political interference by those who have had years to address issues but decided to do nothing.”