Nassau County Republican legislators call for NIFA removal, citing attorney hire

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Nassau County Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Nassau County Legislature’s Republican majority caucus is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove the Nassau Interim Finance Authority board (NIFA) and for the state comptroller to audit it because of an attorney hired to represent the board in negotiations with the county.

The attorney’s hiring came in December after county union contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017. This year, the county has been able to meet with every union except the Police Benevolent Association to begin negotiations, a spokesperson for County Executive Laura Curran said.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) called the finance authority’s hiring of a labor attorney funded by taxpayer money a “political patronage hire.” NIFA has paid the attorney $125,000 in the last five months, according to the majority caucus.

“If this waste of money is how a ‘fiscal watchdog’ is allowed to act, then the County would be much better off without them in place,” the legislator said in a news release. “We ask for this contract to be terminated immediately, the Governor to remove the NIFA’s Board and for the State Comptroller to audit the board for misuse of taxpayer funds.”

NIFA hired the labor attorney, Gary Dellaverson, in December with a $25,000 per month salary to represent its board in union contract negotiations with Nassau County, according to the majority caucus.

“In our opinion, Mr. Dellaverson is the best at what he does, as a labor attorney and negotiator,” NIFA board chair Adam Barsky said in a statement. “His fees are in line with what other governmental entities the size and complexity of Nassau County have paid, and are immaterial considering the value of the labor contracts that he is negotiating.”

Curran had initially proposed for Dellaverson to represent the county in July 2018. She proposed a contract ensuring a $12,500 per month salary that would increase to $25,000 with collective bargaining. That contract was changed in September to an hourly pay rate of $625 with $25,000 upfront, according to the majority caucus.

The County Legislature’s Rules Committee rejected the contract, citing it as too expensive and unnecessary because of labor attorneys that already did the same work.

NIFA then hired Dellaverson.

“NIFA and the County working together is called cooperation,” Curran said in a statement. “To suggest that NIFA’s labor lawyer is unqualified is just laughable.”

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