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IDA 'termination pay' is a galling example of government

Former Nassau IDA executive director Joseph Kearney authorized

Former Nassau IDA executive director Joseph Kearney authorized the termination payments for himself and four other agency employees. Credit: Howard Schnapp

For taxpayers who work in the private sector, it can be infuriating to read about public employees getting big checks for years of unused sick and vacation pay on leaving their jobs. For most of us, neither can be banked for years to build up jackpot-sized bonuses. Such termination pay is a unique perk of public employment.

But the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency went with an even bigger goody bag. It paid these termination bonuses to employees who hadn’t left, without any public action or the approval of its own full board.

On Jan. 4, 2018, three days after newly elected County Executive Laura Curran was sworn in, the Nassau County IDA’s five employees were given termination pay totaling $350,216, although none were headed out the door. Three left later, but two still work at the agency.

The payments were authorized by then-Executive Director Joseph Kearney, now a Republican appointee at the Nassau County Board of Elections. And they’ve been defended by Kearney and the IDA board chairman at the time, Timothy Williams, as the IDA’s standard procedure. But they were unjustifiable, and a wise vote by the current board last week to ban future termination payments for employees still on the job might quell further outrage.

The Nassau County IDA is funded by the fees paid by companies seeking large tax breaks, which often have been granted even when they are unjustified. Companies may not be so quick to pay the fees if the IDA were more scrupulous about rejecting meritless applications. But then the IDA might not have $350,000 for generous termination pay to current employees.

And this is why people hate government.  — The editorial board


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