Editorial: Jack Schnirman for county comptroller

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Steven Labriola, a Republican, kicked off his campaign for Nassau County comptroller by pledging to “enhance accountability, strengthen transparency and root out corruption.”

Labriola’s pledge might have been more convincing if he had not made it surrounded by supporters including officials from the administration of County Executive Edward Mangano, who was arrested last year on political corruption charges.

And he was not working as the chief compliance officer in Nassau’s Office of Management and Budget, a position to which he was appointed by Mangano.

Labriola — a former state assemblyman who has also worked as the county’s chief deputy comptroller and Oyster Bay town clerk — is running against Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman.

Schnirman has a history of taking on financially troubled municipalities, beginning with the scandal-plagued Town of Brookhaven and then after a period of consulting become city manager of Long Beach, where he inherited a government with a $14 million deficit and near junk bond status after five downgrades.

Under Schnirman, Long Beach’s bond rating has been upgraded twice and received nine consecutive credit positive reviews and the $14 million deficit is now a $7 million surplus.

He has proposed greater transparency in county government, independent audits and reforming a county contracting system at the center of Mangano’s arrest and that of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos as well as a federal investigation involving Deputy County Executive Rob Walker.

Schnirman said he supported the creation of an independent inspector general with subpoena power to oversee county contracts.

Labriola said he too would like to see an independent inspector general but all but negated his support by saying a deal would have to negotiated by the Legislature and the county executive. This was proposed last year and rejected by Republican county legislators. The chance that things will change this year are between slim and none — and slim may too generous a word.

Labriola said he has a three-point plan that would include a whistle-blower hotline, doubling the number of audits conducted by the comptroller’s office each year and creating an anti-fraud unit of forensic accountants.

We agree with him on all three, but wonder why he did not offer these when he was chief deputy comptroller or chief compliance officer in Nassau’s Office of Management and Budget. 

We also prefer Schnirman’s call to hire a certified assessor who regularly reassesses county property rather than Labriola’s call to shift the responsibilities of assessing property to the towns and asking the state Legislature to eliminate the County Guaranty — echoing his running mate, Jack Martins.

We believe Schnirman is much more likely to be an independent voice for the county, which is especially important in an election in which the Republicans can be expected to keep control of the Legislature and possibly the county executive’s seat.

We endorse Jack Schnirman for county comptroller.

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