The county comptroller’s position is a focus of this year’s primary as the current officeholder, George Maragos, changed his political party affiliation last year, and is now running for Nassau county executive as a Democrat. Because of that shift and a split between Nassau Democrats, there are two Democratic county comptroller candidates running on Primary Day, Sept. 12.
Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager for nearly six years, and Ama Yawson, a lawyer and owner of the boutique publishing house and education consulting firm Milestales, are vying for county comptroller. Schnirman is running with Laura Curran, who is opposing Maragos in the primary. Yawson is part of Maragos’s team.
Schnirman points to his experience of running Long Beach, and Yawson highlights her political outsider status and what she calls her “community insider” status.
Attacking what he views as a corrupt system surrounding the county’s finances, Schnirman said he wants to get out from under the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which oversees the county’s financial actions, by implementing a four-point plan for which he would:
n Increase transparency by making more information public.
n Conduct what he called “smart audits” that ask the “tough questions.”
n Reform the county contracting system by implementing recommendations originally made by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in 2012 and County District Attorney Madeline Singas in 2015.
n Have residents report waste, abuse and fraud. He also wants to re-establish an audit committee and reduce the amount of time it takes to pay contractors.
“Nassau cannot afford to continue Maragos’s legacy of rubber-stamping the corrupt county executive’s scandal-plagued administration, fiscal mismanagement and total lack of transparency,” Schnirman said.
Touting her nonpolitical experience, Yawson said she is running because she has a “great deal of concern” for the county’s working families who are struggling to pay high taxes and not receiving equitable services.
She said she would establish “financial integrity” by improving access to contracts to small and minority businesses, and encourage private sector investment to boost the tax base. Yawson said she believes that as comptroller, Maragos was not beholden to the county executive and demonstrated his “complete independence” by being “beholden only to the people.”
“For me, financial integrity means accurate financial reporting and continuing what my predecessor has done, engaging in the practices that look for corruption,” she said.
Schnirman wants to create what he called a “publicly accessible scorecard” that would track the county’s fiscal progress. He would then make recommendations to the county executive and the Legislature. “As county comptroller, I can audit financial transactions,” he said. “Day to day, the county executive makes decisions as approved by the county Legislature and the public.”
Yawson said that no one is pulling her strings, and she would help ensure everyone receives a fair shake. “It will be a platform where contracts and civil service jobs are available to all,” she said. “We’re all paying. We should all have to opportunity and [make] sure we are hiring the best.”
Schnirman said he believes that his education and experience are his calling cards. “People should vote for me because of my record of turning around the finances in Long Beach, turning around the finances in Brookhaven and studying public policy at Harvard. I’m prepared to do it,” he said.
For Yawson, it’s about being a community watchdog. “I’m more attuned to everyday people and not the political patronage system,” she said. “My platform is government for the people, not patronage.”