Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald X. Clavin, a Republican, called on Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, a Democrat, to resign over questions surrounding his separation payment when he left the City of Long Beach.
Clavin, who is running for Hempstead supervisor, was joined at his Aug. 20 press conference by Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), who has long been critical of the city’s separation payments. Clearing up what she called a misunderstanding in a press release, Ford told reporters that she was not asking for Schnirman’s resignation, but did want the comptroller to come clean about how he received more than what city ordinances mandated.
Clavin also demanded that his opponent, Democratic Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, ask for the resignation of her chief of staff, Jim LaCarrubba, who also left the employ of Long Beach with a separation payment that has reportedly been investigated.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli—both Democrats—are looking into the city’s payout policy.
Published reports indicate that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District are also investigating the separation payments.
Before winning the comptroller’s race in 2017, Schnirman served as Long Beach’s city manager from 2012-2017 and made $173,800 per year in his final contract. When he left the city’s employ, he received a payout of $108,000.
As a non-union employee he was—per city ordinances—entitled to be paid for 30 percent of total accrued sick days and up to 50 vacation days.
By one calculation, the former manager should have received about $52,000 upon separation.
“The irony is startling,” Ford said. “Mr. Schnirman is supposed to guard against overpayments by Nassau’s government and ensure that all payments are accurate and appropriate. By contrast, he apparently was on the receiving end of an overpayment from his former employer.”
Gillen, Clavin charged, “has made bold proclamations about her commitment to ethical standards. At the same time, her chief of staff, Jim LaCarrubba, has been named in news reports as one of the subjects of a highly controversial payout controversy in the City of Long Beach. And, at least three city council members have gone on record stating that they thought he was a part-time employee at the time of his termination with the city, which would have precluded LaCarrubba from taking publicly funded payouts. That’s just wrong, and it is time for Supervisor Laura Gillen to join me in asking for Jim LaCarrubba to resign from town employment.”
LaCarrubba was reportedly hired by the city in 2012 and served as commissioner of public works until 2016, when he resigned but remained on the payroll to advise on Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. According to published reports, LaCarrubba was then hired full-time to serve as Long Beach’s director of operations, at an annual salary of $130,000. According to an article in the Long Beach Herald, LaCarrubba received $86,000 in separation payouts.
“The time has come to clean up local government,” concluded Ford. “I want to thank Don Clavin for working with me to demand integrity and honesty from our government officials.”
In a statement, Schnirman said, “I welcome 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. Similar to the thoughtful longtime issues pointed out by the recent report of the New York State Restructuring Board, I hope and expect those reviews determine best practices on behalf of Long Beach residents. I’m not going to get involved in the political games of trying to undercut a professional review.”
He added, “When it comes to how my time was processed and compensated, here are the facts. Like any management employee, I documented my time. Like any management employee, those records were submitted to the payroll department. Like any management employee, the professional staff processed those records and ultimately calculated any payments I earned for accrued time. I did not process my records and I did not calculate my payment because that would be inappropriate.”
Schnirman concluded, “As I’ve said previously, my understanding is that all earned leave payments were calculated properly and policies executed with the advice of counsel. 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.”
LaCarrubba, in an emailed statement, said, “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.”.
The Office of State Comptroller is expected to release a two-part audit of Long Beach in the coming months; one will examine the separation payouts and accrual time policies, the other will examine the city’s overall finances.
DiNapoli said that the city’s separation payments “will saddle future taxpayers with the repayment of past service costs, with interest, for which they received no benefit. Based on our review of the proposed budget, city officials continue to take actions that are detrimental to the city’s financial position.”