Nassau County Clerk Maureen C. O’Connell has 12 years of experience at her back as she seeks her fourth term.
She knows this office inside out, but tends to take a too-passive view of her role. One welcome exception came after the county executive’s budget proposed to significantly hike fees for recording mortgages, deeds and satisfactions processed by the clerk’s office. O’Connell has testified before the legislature that the fees are too high.
A 66-year-old Republican from East Williston, O’Connell has accomplished key initiatives to bring the office into the 21st century that she promised four years ago. As the repository for Nassau’s court documents and public records, the clerk’s office must stay on top of evolving demands for remote and digitized access.
Challenger Dean E. Bennett, 51, a Democrat from Baldwin, is earnest and involved in his local PTA. His website describes an impressive five-point plan for fixing the clerk’s office. However, in person, his criticisms of O’Connell were ineffective. For example, his idea to store copies of records off-site, in case the office is hit by a disaster, is something the clerk is already doing.
After Nassau’s fee-raising plan became public, O’Connell protested and she says the higher charges cannot be justified as needed to cover administrative costs. She needs to be more assertive about protesting these unjustified increases. And when traffic court failed to send over red-light judgments for months, O’Connell should have made some noise about that, too.
As a project for her next term, she spoke about revising outdated Civil Service titles in her office, such as clerk-typist.
O’Connell should go ahead and make hers a modern office and a model for the rest of county government.
Newsday endorses O’Connell.