Schnirman outlines plan to fix Nassau County finances

Janelle Clausen
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman, flanked by officials, presents his plans to reform Nassau County to reporters. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman, a Democratic candidate for Nassau County comptroller, outlined his priorities on Tuesday, promising to improve fiscal transparency and serve as an “independent fiscal watchdog.”

He suggested opening up and modernizing government and cleaning up the county contracting system.

Schnirman is running against Republican Steve Labriola, Nassau’s chief deputy comptroller. Labriola’s campaign has a similar pledge to “restore the taxpayer trust” and increase how many audits are conducted by the comptroller’s office.

The Nassau County comptroller’s responsibilities include monitoring budget operations, auditing government agencies, reviewing county contracts and helping the county overcome fiscal challenges, according to the office website.

The comptroller also prepares Nassau’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and administers the county payroll and employee health benefits.

The comptroller monitors an annual budget of over $2 billion.

Schnirman said he aims to open up Nassau County’s finances to the average resident. To do this, he said he would push for open government software and create an accessible scorecard that tracks the county’s fiscal data.

“All around the country you can look at a website, you can search the finances and anyone can look and see where we’re at. That’s where we need to be,” Schnirman said. “Once we know where we are, we can talk about where we want to go.”

He also called for an end to “accounting gimmicks,” suggesting that closing a deficit with borrowed money is like saying  someone is a millionaire because they took out a loan.

Schnirman also suggested “smart, honest audits” and restoring committees to check the county’s finances.

“We’re going to bring a professional approach and re-establish the independent audit committee and audit advisory committee that has gone defunct for far too long,” Schnirman said.

He also criticized the county contracting system. He said it is filled with delays, corruption and excessive spending that county Republicans have failed to address.

“Nassau County’s contracting system is crying out for reform. We’ve seen the scandals, we see the headlines, we know that taxpayer dollars are being wasted,” Schnirman said. “And the cries for reform have gone on for too long and fallen on deaf ears.”

Schnirman proposed working more closing with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which oversees county finances, and the state comptroller to better vet and track county contracts.

Schnirman also worked as Brookhaven chief deputy town supervisor, where he says he improved town services and turned a fiscal crisis around.

Labriola, a chief compliance officer in Nassau’s Office of Management and Budget, also said he wants to create an anti-fraud unit and a “whistle-blower hotline” for employees and citizens to provide tips.

Labriola said this would create a vendor rating and experience database and a contract review process to protect taxpayers.

Before serving as chief deputy comptroller, Labriola was Oyster Bay town clerk from 2003 to 2009 and represented the 12th Assembly District from 1997 to 2003.

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