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NIFA chair Jon Kaiman calls his tenure at fiscal watchdog a success

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman gives two thumbs up

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman gives two thumbs up after saying goodbye to his board members after Kaiman chaired his final board meeting at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale Feb. 3, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Jon Kaiman, outgoing chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said Wednesday that under his leadership the state monitoring board has steered the county toward a path of fiscal stability.

Kaiman, a Democrat who ran his final NIFA meeting Wednesday, called his nearly two-and-a-half year tenure a “success,” noting that the board brokered a more productive working relationship with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

“I came in and tried to move the pile forward, resolve entrenched conflict, and create a pathway for success,” said Kaiman, who will resign Monday to seek the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who is not running for re-election.

Kaiman’s predecessor, Ron Stack, had an often combative relationship with Mangano, culminating in January 2011 when the board took control of the county’s finances, citing a then- $176 million deficit. Two months later, NIFA imposed a wage freeze on all county employees.

In September 2013, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo overhauled the board, replacing Stack with Kaiman and appointing investment adviser Paul Annunziato and developer Lester Petracca. The move, sources said at the time, was meant to calm the rocky relationship between NIFA and Mangano, a political ally of Cuomo.

In May 2014, NIFA approved contracts with county labor unions that ended the wage freeze and for the first time required new employees to pay a percentage of their health insurance premium and pension costs. Last December the board, in passing Mangano’s 2016 budget, imposed quarterly reviews of Nassau’s finances to determine if county spending exceeds projections or revenue fails to meet expectations. The county is facing a potential $80 million deficit in this year’s budget.

Mangano said Kaiman has “demonstrated a willingness to work in partnership with the legislature and administration for the benefit of Nassau taxpayers.”

But former NIFA member George Marlin claims Kaiman allowed NIFA to become a “political enabler” for Mangano, approving labor deals that “contributed to the growing structural deficit of the county. Hopefully, the governor will appoint a fiscal watchdog and not another fiscal lap dog.”

Kaiman said the labor deal “may not have been perfect, but it saved the county hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars and showed a degree of respect to the thousands of people who diligently serve our residents in law enforcement and county government.”

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