Your editorial last week regarding Republican county legislators begins and ends with references to the movie “Memento.” As you indicate, the main character in the movie (Leonard Shelby) sustains a trauma and can only remember things for a few minutes. There are other characters, however, who are aware of Shelby’s memory loss and manipulate him and his lack of memory for their own ends. That is exactly what your editorial seeks to do.
You attack Republican legislators for daring to criticize NIFA’s hiring of a well-connected lawyer, Gary Dellaverson, to a sweetheart contract. You fail to mention that before NIFA hired him, Mr. Dellaverson’s contract was rejected in a unanimous, bipartisan vote of the Rules Committee of the Legislature. There are several reasons for this. The contract is ridiculously expensive, and Mr. Dellaverson does not have to account for his time. Second, the administration has already hired, with legislative approval, several well-qualified labor law firms, who would be paid a competitive rate and would have to account for their time.
Under the contract that the Island Now touts, Mr. Dellaverson, who happens to be a friend of the chief deputy county executive, gets paid $25,000 a month whether he works 10 minutes, 10 hours or 100 hours. He just submits an invoice and gets a check, courtesy of Nassau taxpayers, without having to account for his time. Unsurprisingly, negotiations are proceeding at a snail’s pace. Why would Mr. Dellaverson push things when he is guaranteed a $25,000 check every month?
The Island Now then segues into the reassessment debacle. There, the Island Now’s memory analogy fails. The public does remember and knows full well what has occurred in the last year. The residents are keenly aware of the tens of thousands of errors, the missed deadlines, the confusing and mistake-ridden mailings, the botched robocalls, and the failure of the county executive and Assessor Moog to hold true town hall meetings throughout the county to answer residents’ questions for as long as it takes. And no, when the county executive shows up at legislative assessment grievance forum, takes a photo and then runs out as quickly as possible, it does not count as holding a public meeting. If you don’t believe my memory of this, ask the residents who attended these forums.
What the Island Now does not understand about our Assessment Bill of Rights is that most of these ideas came from taxpayers frustrated with the disastrous way that the administration rolled out its reassessment plan. For example, one of the laws we propose requires the county to disclose the formula it uses to determine a property’s assessed value. You ask why didn’t we think of this before? Well, it never occurred to us that a county official would refuse to release this information on the basis that it was a “trade secret.”
The Legislature has given this and the previous administration every tool they requested to conduct a reassessment of Nassau’s properties. (The Rules Committee approved contracts for Reassessment in 2015 and 2018). We have insisted and will continue to insist that the process be fair, transparent and accurate. As to that last point, more than 249,000 homeowners filed challenges this year, the most in the history of the county. The outcome of these challenges will be the ultimate test of the county executive’s reassessment.