Comptroller audit leads to Nassau whistleblower policy review

Nassau County whistleblower policies were not being distributed to all employees as required by county charter, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said he discovered during an initial investigation into his county-wide nepotism audit.

Schnirman (D-Long Beach) said his office reached out to the county executive, and a revised copy of the policy was distributed to all employees and will continue to be provided to new hires.

The discovery led to further review of the county whistleblower policy, by the county executive staff, which found it to be outdated and not in line with current state law, Schnirman said.

The county policy requires employees to disclose information to a superior to protect whistleblower status, he said.

“[It] dissuades individuals from making such complaints and disclosures, which is bad, and the county attorney is going to seek the necessary changes to the charter,” Schnirman said.

“We’re really grateful to county executive office and acting swiftly on these issues and partnering with our office for reform,” Schnirman added.

In a statement, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “transparency in government is the top priority of the Curran Administration. We are happy to work with the Nassau County comptroller throughout this process.”  

The discovery stems from preliminary review of policies as part of Schnirman’s nepotism audit he announced in April, after 100 days in office.

Working with the office of human resources and civil service, Schnirman’s office is currently reviewing documents and policies.

The work has also led to ensure that all county employees take an online training on the county sexual harassment policy.

Moving forward, the audit will continue to look at each department and its employees to fix policies and guidelines that have allowed nepotism and patronage to “run wild in Nassau County,” Schnirman said.

“So many good, honest, hard working employees in the county are forced to sit by and watch those with so called right connections advance ahead of them,” Schnirman said. “And way too many smart people… are forced to wonder if or when they’ll have a fair shot.”

Though the audit, Schnirman said he seeks to develop a comprehensive set of reform oriented recommendations, to make sure “the mistakes of the past can’t be repeated in the future.”

Schnirman added that the audit is not focussed on calling “out a few high profile names.”

“It really is an example of what we call smart audits can accomplish,” Schnirman said. “It’s not about playing gotcha, it’s about finding real ways to make structural reforms.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.

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