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Nassau Clerk O’Connell among those who will take full salary

The annual salary of Nassau County Clerk Maureen

The annual salary of Nassau County Clerk Maureen O'Connell, seen here on June 30, 2016, rises to more than $191,000. Credit: Barry Sloan

County Clerk Maureen O’Connell has taken her full salary after a decade of refusing automatic pay hikes, even as she fights budget cuts ordered by Nassau’s financial control board.

The raise boosts Republican O’Connell’s 2008-level pay of $166,300 to more than $191,000, and her salary will increase again next year to about $195,000.

Although outgoing County Comptroller George Maragos has refused the annual automatic pay increases since he took office in 2010, incoming Democratic County Comptroller Jack Schnirman will take the full, legally allowed salary when he takes office Jan. 1, a spokesman said. His pay should be the same as O’Connell’s.

Incoming Democratic County Executive Laura Curran also will take the full salary when she is sworn in next month, a spokesman said, bringing her pay to more than $196,000. Outgoing Republican County Executive Edward Mangano had refused the automatic increases for six years, keeping his salary at $174,000. But two years ago he took his retroactive, cumulative salary increases, boosting his pay to $191,621.

Maragos originally said that O’Connell’s salary increased to $182,497 on Nov. 10 — two days after her re-election to a fourth term — after she asked for her retroactive pay.

But his office began recalculating the raise after Newsday questioned whether the amount was too low, based upon the county ordinance that stipulates that the countywide elected officials get automatic pay increases in line with the annual increase in the consumer price index for urban consumers, including Long Island.

“The Comptroller’s office is in the process of working with central Human Resources to verify the original calculations for the new salaries for Maureen O’Connell, Jack Schnirman and Laura Curran as per the County Ordinance,” Maragos spokesman Emmanuel Asse said in a statement. He said he would not have the numbers until Tuesday.

Newsday calculated the new 2018 salaries based on the county ordinance, and administration officials later confirmed the numbers.

The county legislature in late 2007 unanimously voted to increase the salaries of countywide elected officials for 2008 and authorized annual automatic hikes of either 4 percent or the percentage increase of the urban consumer price index, whichever was lower.

The district attorney’s salary was included in the county law, but Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for District Attorney Madeline Singas, said all district attorneys’ salaries in New York “are set by state law to be identical to that paid to Supreme Court justices in their jurisdiction. Nassau’s 33 State Supreme Court judges and the district attorney are paid $194,900. Approximately $69,100 of the district attorney’s statutory salary is subsidized by the state.” He said no raises are scheduled in January.

Salaries for Nassau’s 19 legislators also are going up on Jan. 1 to $75,000 after remaining at $39,500 for 21 years.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has rejected legally authorized pay raises for his job since taking office, freezing his salary at $177,707 for the past six years, according to spokesman Jason Elan. Bellone will refuse an increase again year, Elan said. Bellone also “voluntarily” contributes 15 percent of his salary toward his health care. Nassau elected officials do not pay a percentage of their health insurance costs.

Political science professor Stanley Klein, a Suffolk GOP committeeman, pegged Nassau’s raises to the Nov. 8 election. “They just got elected,” he said. The political ramifications are “nil.”

Political consultant Michael Dawidziak, who mostly works for Republicans, said, “Not taking pay raises is strictly symbolic. . . . It’s a symbolic gesture to say, ‘I understand things are bad, I feel the taxpayer’s pain.’ ” But he said he doubts if most voters notice.

O’Connell also authorized 7 percent pay increases for her eight appointees when she took her retroactive salary hikes. She said she and her staff had foregone raises for many years “trying to do our part in sharing the burden” of the county financial problems. Now, she said, it was time to bring salaries “up to county standards.”

She said her office, which collects fees for land and court records, is “one of the highest generators of revenues in the county.”

One of her raises went to Chief Deputy County Clerk John Ferretti, boosting his $150,000 salary to $160,500 annually. Ferretti, a Republican, will resign in January to be sworn in as the newly elected county legislator from Levittown. The Nov. 10 pay increase also will boost his severance pay, which is based on the salary in effect on his last day of work.

O’Connell said Ferretti’s severance pay played no part in her decision. She said the pay raises were across the board and were aimed at the position rather than the person. Ferretti said he will be taking an $85,000 pay decrease as a legislator.

“I’m taking quite a pay cut to serve the people of the 15th Legislative District,” he said, adding that his salary was still lower than other chief deputies in the county. The salary of Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, for example, is $186,673.

Ferretti said he has not lined up any other outside employment: “I don’t have anything definitive right now. I’m not saying I won’t work. I’m not counting on that as income.”

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls the county’s finances, earlier this month ordered budget cuts in every department, including the county clerk’s office. O’Connell protested the cuts, noting she generates more than eight times the revenue for the county than her office costs it.

Though NIFA ordered a 1.8 percent reduction in non-salary expenses, O’Connell said she is still analyzing what, if anything, to cut. “We still haven’t determined yet our next course of action,” O’Connell said.

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