Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin called on County Comptroller Jack Schnirman to resign on Tuesday amid an investigation into a “payout scandal” in Long Beach that Clavin claimed happened on Schnirman’s watch, while he was the city manager.
Clavin, a Republican who is running against Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen this year, said that Schnirman was overpaid when he left the city’s employ in January 2018.
At a news conference, Clavin, who was joined by County Legislator Denise Ford, a Democrat from Long Beach who caucuses with Republicans, said that Schnirman received full payment for unused sick days after six years of employment with the city, even though his contract and the city’s Code of Ordinances stipulate that he be paid for only 30 percent of those sick days. Clavin and Ford cited news reports and documents obtained by residents through Freedom of Information Law requests.
Clavin also called on Gillen’s chief of staff, Jim LaCarrubba, to resign, saying that he received two questionable payouts as Long Beach’s former commissioner of public works and later as director of operations.
“These payouts happened to them under their watch,” Clavin told reporters, “and as far as I’m concerned, with knowledge of what was taking place.”
The Herald reported in June that investigators from the Nassau County district attorney’s office have questioned a number of current and former Long Beach City Council members and officials over the past year about separation payouts to Schnirman and other employees when they left city government.
Singas is working with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, which is conducting an audit of the city’s finances, focusing in part on separation payouts to current and former employees.
Ford said that investigators from the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York are also interviewing former and current council members about the city’s payout practices. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office offered no details on the status of any investigation the agency might be pursuing.
Ford, who thanked Singas for investigating the payouts, said after the news conference that she was not calling on Schnirman to resign — despite statements saying otherwise in a news release from Clavin's office, which she attributed to a miscommunication — adding that she wanted Schnirman to explain how he received his payout.
“We still have not received any type of information from anyone to say whether or not these payouts were legitimate or not,” Ford told reporters. “They are questionable, and we keep asking and asking. We know for a fact that they were overpaid when we look at some of the information we received on the time sheets.”
Democrats immediately shot back and called the news conference a "desperate campaign" tactic.
Schnirnman, who did not sign his payout forms, said that he welcomed “any and all professional reviews of how the City of Long Beach has processed and compensated earned leave obligations over a period of many years and several administrations.” He said he did not calculate or process his payment because “that would be inappropriate,” adding that his records were submitted to the payroll department.
“If a professional review shows the City of Long Beach made any error in my payment, I would seek to return any funds paid in error, as I trust anyone would do,” Schnirman said in a statement. “I’m not going to get involved in the political games of trying to undercut a professional review.”
As the Herald reported first in 2018, Schnirman received a $108,000 separation payout from the city, including 100 percent of his accrued sick days — or $73,100 — when he left the city’s employ, according to a Herald analysis of his payment documents that year. The city’s Code of Ordinances states, however, that non-union, or management, employees like Schnirman should be paid for only 30 percent of total accrued sick days at the time of separation.
Schnirman’s employment contract, approved by the City Council, also specified that he should be paid 30 percent, which would have been $21,900. Schnirman was also paid for slightly more than the 50 vacation days he could claim under his contract and the city’s code.
According to public records obtained by the Herald on Tuesday and a recent report in Newsday, Schnirman — who earned $173,000 per year as city manager — was overpaid by even more for sick days, roughly $6,600.
Ford said she believed that separation payments to LaCarrubba were criminal.
As the Herald reported last year, La-Carrubba, who began working for the city in 2012, resigned in September 2016 and received a $65,000 separation payout, but remained employed by the city in an advisory position that many officials and council members believed was part-time.
LaCarrubba initially earned $40,000 per year as an adviser on Hurricane Sandy recovery projects, Schnirman told the Herald last year, but 10 months later he was named the city’s director of operations, at an annual salary of $130,000. When he left for good in October 2017, he received a $21,000 payout — the second that he received in 13 months — based on his salary as director of operations, even though he was only in the post for roughly three months.
Schnirman told the Herald last year that before LaCarrubba’s role officially changed, he was always employed full-time after he was brought back as a consultant on Sandy projects. His separation payout forms, obtained by the Herald through a Freedom of Information request last year, also show that he remained a full-time employee.
Other city documents obtained by the Herald on Tuesday, however, show that LaCarrubba was categorized as a temporary worker up until August 2017. Ford and Clavin said that LaCarrubba would not have been entitled to a payout for accrued time as a part-time employee.
“Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen has made bold proclamations about her commitment to ethical standards,” Clavin said. “It is time for Supervisor Laura Gillen to join me in asking for Jim LaCarrubba to resign from town employment.”
Gillen’s campaign blasted Clavin, saying that “his crew” raised taxes more than $90 million to pay for patronage jobs.
“It’s fascinating that when one corrupt Republican official after another in Clavin’s cabal was led off in handcuffs, silent Don said nothing,” Gillen campaign manager Michael Ousley said in a statement. “Maybe it’s because Clavin has benefited from the corruption tax that Long Island families pay. Instead of attacking, shouldn’t Clavin be explaining?”
Schnirman said he believed that all earned leave payments were calculated properly, and given with the advice of the city’s legal counsel.
“I stand by my record of commitment and achievement as a public servant, and will not be swayed by dirty politics and desperate campaign tactics,” LaCarrubba said in a statement.