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Nassau probe sought into alleged preferential treatment of lawyer

Nassau County Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown) is seeking

Nassau County Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown) is seeking a probe of alleged preferential treatment toward a Bellmore attorney. Credit: James Escher

Nassau legislator John Ferretti has asked Democratic County Executive Laura Curran’s assessment watchdog to probe alleged preferential treatment by county officials of a Bellmore attorney, who runs an assessment grievance website and also files homeowner protests for a $250 fee.

Ferretti (R-Levittown) asked Assessment Quality Assurance director Ana Sousa for the review in a letter last week after he had questioned her and Robin Laveman, who chairs Nassau’s Assessment Review Commission, at a legislative hearing.

“There has been a clear pattern of inappropriate favoritism to one specific tax grievance attorney by the administration,” Ferretti said in an interview. “The county executive held a press conference with this grievance attorney. The Assessment Review Commission then put a link on their official Facebook page directing residents to this tax grievance attorney. Then Assessor [David] Moog was an active participant in this tax grievance attorney’s Facebook page where the tax attorney solicits clients. If you were a Nassau resident looking to hire a tax grievance attorney, who would you hire?”

Ferretti was referring to Jeff Gold, a former Democratic candidate who served on ARC member and the now-defunct Board of Assessors. Gold runs a Facebook page that tells homeowners to challenge their own assessments, and also offers to do it for the nonrefundable fee.

“In no way am I criticizing Mr. Gold, who may very well be helping people,” said Ferretti. He said his concern centered on county actions, noting the hyperlink to Gold’s page was posted on the ARC page for all but one day of the recent four-month grievance period.

At the May 6 hearing, Laveman said she didn’t know how or why the Gold link was posted on the ARC page, which she said she runs. The link was taken down a few hours after Ferretti questioned it.

Gold told Newsday in an email that “ARC tagged me, because they knew I would advertise their group to my members, which I did. I did not ask ARC to tag me.” In a message to Ferretti, Gold called the link an error.

Gold said his Facebook page has 24,000 members. “Not a single client of my firm indicated that they utilized our services, because ARC tagged me.” He said he does not solicit clients other than to advise them of the link that provides the grievance information.

Moog, Gold added, “only posted factual answers to technical questions.” However, screen shots show that Moog at least twice posted on Gold’s page that Newsday stories were “fake news.”

Curran spokeswoman Chris Geed justified the link in an email. “The post maximizes the reach on a Facebook page by tagging another page with a very large and interested audience. This is not favoritism, rather a very common social media strategy to amplify, reach and engage. This particular page has over 25,000 followers who are Nassau County residents who are concerned and interested in receiving information about the grievance process. The County was striving to engage this particular audience and ensure they were getting, clear, up to date, accurate information about the grievance process.”

If so, Ferretti said, “Why did they take the link down? If this was posted intentionally, there are clear ethical concerns that warrant further investigation.”

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