Dean Bennett and Carl DeHaney, the Democratic candidates for county clerk, agree that the clerk’s office needs to be modernized and that not many people know what it does.
But in highlighting their experiences in separate sit-down interviews with Blank Slate Media, the candidates emphasized different strengths and solutions for the clerk’s office, which manages the county’s public records.
Voters will pick the Democrats’ official candidate for clerk in a primary election on Sept. 12, in addition to deciding the Democrats’ candidates for county executive and county comptroller. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for clerk will likely face off against Maureen O’Connell, the three-term Republican incumbent, on Nov. 7.
Bennett, the head of J.K. Bennett and Associates Inc., a corporate consulting firm, is running with Laura Curran and Jack Schnirman. He previously served as the deputy director of the county’s Office of Minority Affairs, the executive director of the state’s Division of Minority and Women Business Development and on the board of the private East Woods School in Oyster Bay.
Taken together, Bennett said, this makes him the ideal candidate. He said his experience managing organizations and working at the state level gives him a better picture of how to improve the county clerk’s office, as well as restore accountability and transparency.
“There has to be something done about that, especially employee morale,” Bennett said.
Bennett called for digitizing records back to 1899 to create a “paperless agency,” working more closely with the staff and publishing reports on how money in the clerk’s office is spent, which is something, he said, that hasn’t been done since 2012.
“The biggest change is integrity,” Bennett said.
DeHaney previously served as the public liaison for Nassau County’s Department of Social Services, as a school board and library trustee in Roosevelt and writer for the Community Journal newspaper. He also worked with the Office of Emergency Management during Superstorm Sandy.
DeHaney said that while both he and his opponent are qualified, his focus on county government and community outreach gives him the right insight to run the clerk’s office. He said he would educate people on the benefits of the county clerk’s office through news conferences, presentations, partnerships with libraries and creating a mobile app.
“You get to see what doesn’t get to the people of Nassau County,” DeHaney said.
“I think the entire county’s behind the times” in interacting with the community, he added.
Both candidates said that the fees in the clerk’s office for filing and accessing records are excessive, but noted that the county Legislature, which is Republican controlled, sets the fees.
DeHaney said that, if elected, he would speak up against high fees at the clerk’s office. Bennett, meanwhile, said he hopes to flip legislative control to the Democrats and push them to continue fighting for lower fees.