The Nassau Interim Finance Authority will hire prominent labor attorney Gary Dellaverson to represent its interests at the bargaining table when the county and its public employee unions begin negotiating new agreements for about 7,000 county employees.
NIFA, the county’s financial control board, unanimously approved a contract Tuesday to hire Dellaverson at a tentative fee of $25,000 per month to “verbalize NIFA’s conditions for approval of any agreements,” according to meeting documents. All of the county’s union contracts require the approval of the seven-member NIFA board.
The move comes about four months after a county legislative committee rejected Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s request to hire Dellaverson at the same rate, raising concerns among legislators and drawing anger from some union leaders who say NIFA is too involved in the negotiations.
NIFA officials, however, say the hiring is aimed at expediting the collective bargaining process.
“We think it’s best for the county and the unions that we, NIFA, be as involved as possible so that we don’t have a situation where they have a long, drawn-out negotiation, only to find out the contract is going to be rejected,” NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said.
NIFA officials did not specify how many months they intended on paying Dellaverson. They could suspend his contract if negotiations stall or terminate it with 30 days' notice, they said before the meeting.
Dellaverson, 64, of Westchester County, served as chief financial officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and brokered a $1 billion deal to redevelop Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West Side in 2008. Dellaverson retired in 2010 after 19 years with the authority, and later joined the Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose, LLP. He has also recently completed a series of negotiations on behalf of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Barsky, who endorsed Dellaverson citing his experience in representing large public entities, is currently chief of staff and special counselor to the Port Authority.
Legis. Rich Nicolello, leader of the Republican majority, said he believed hiring Dellaverson seemed like a way around the county legislature.
Both Republican and Democratic legislators in August said they believed Dellaverson’s legal fee was too high and his service would be duplicative of labor attorneys already hired to represent the county. In September, the seven members of the legislature’s Rules Committee unanimously voted down the Curran administration’s request to hire him.
“It just shows complete disdain for Nassau County taxpayers to hire this lawyer who was rejected by the legislature and to pay him this exorbitant salary. They can no longer be called an independent oversight body because for all intents and purposes they are taking direction from the county executive,” said Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).
Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he has the same concerns as he did in August.
“Ultimately we can’t stop NIFA from contracting with whom they are going to contract with but we do have concerns about whether Mr. Dellaverson is going to be utilized in a financially responsible matter,” Abrahams said.
NIFA hired the law firm Bond, Schoeneck and King in 2015 during the last collective bargaining period, NIFA officials said.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Civil Service Employees Association Local 830, said: “I don’t understand the need for any labor lawyer for the control board since NIFA is not a party to any collective bargaining agreements. I’m not negotiating with NIFA — I’m negotiating with the county.”
Kevin Black, president of the Superior Officers Association, said after the NIFA meeting: “We feel it's an end run around the legislature when a bipartisan committee voted seven-nothing not to do the same basic contract with Mr. Dellaverson. The county executive has in the past asked for transparency and amicable negotiations and participated in this back-door deal to get the attorney she wanted.”
Curran spokeswoman Karen Contino said in a statement: “It is in the best interest of the County and its employees to reach settlements that can be endorsed by NIFA. To help achieve that goal, NIFA has retained a seasoned labor relations professional who may be able to assist the County. Gary Dellaverson is a well-respected and experienced labor negotiator in the public sector.”
Unionized county employees have been working under the terms of an expired contract since Jan. 1. Employee salaries and benefits account for nearly 50 percent of the county’s $3 billion operating budget. Nassau could have a $59 million deficit next year, NIFA officials warned in October.
NIFA has an annual budget of about $2 million.