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Nassau County’s inept paper chase for labor contracts

NIFA board members meet for their public meeting

NIFA board members meet for their public meeting at the Long Island Marriot in Uniondale on the evening of July 25, 2017 Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Since 2014, a state fiscal control board has harangued Nassau County officials for not providing it with the full text of contracts it has signed with its public service unions. The county wants to comply. Shamefully, it can’t.

Incredibly, the county does not possess single, discrete contracts it has made with each of five unions — documents now sought by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. When it comes to the Police Benevolent Association contract, which sets some standards for other deals, officials say paperwork on work rules, compensation and other memos that involve millions of dollars is missing.

The best guess of officials is that Nassau has about 95 percent of the paperwork for the PBA deal. The contract has not existed as one comprehensive document since at least 1992. But the unions likely have every scrap of paper, as they should. Keeping up with and understanding their contracts is a big part of their business, one they’re very good at. Labor leaders have refused to stipulate that the documents submitted to NIFA by the county are complete, because they aren’t, and because it isn’t in their best bargaining interests to do so.

But trickery is no way to partner with government or work for the taxpayer. The PBA and the other unions should give NIFA copies of every contract, addendum and codicil. Then all sides should work to reach formal understanding of the deals. This will take time and should be done before all contracts for about 7,000 employees expire at the end of 2017.

There will be a new county executive in 2018. During this campaign, voters should ask each candidate to pledge not to sign off on any new contract without agreement that it is the complete document and supersedes previous agreements. — The editorial board