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Weitzman Blasts Maragos Over Threatening Letter

Threat of lawsuit, made at public expense, aims to silence political opposition

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman announced that he received a letter from the law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, at the behest of the Nassau County Attorney’s Office, threatening a lawsuit unless he retracts a complaint he filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaint, based on an investigative piece published by the Wall Street Journal, highlights evidence that Comptroller George Maragos’s annual financial report is misleading and that the County Attorney’s office colluded with a partisan Republican judge to ‘cook the books’ and misrepresent the county’s financial condition on the annual financial report.

“It is a new low for Mr. Maragos to use taxpayer dollars to hire an attorney to threaten his political opposition,” said Weitzman. “I have asked the SEC to look at the way Mr. Maragos and the administration manipulated county finances to claim that the county ended the year with a ‘miraculous’ surplus, when in fact the county has gone deeper into debt.”

This is the third attempt Republican leaders in Nassau County have made to keep Weitzman from disclosing the truth about the county’s financial reports. This month alone, Weitzman was twice denied the opportunity to testify at public hearings, even though the hearing notices explicitly stated that there would be time for public comment.

The thrust of Weitzman’s complaint is that Maragos and other county leaders misrepresented the county’s financial condition, thus misleading the public and county bond holders. The county’s 2012 official financial report prominently touts a surplus that is a total work of fiction. On the last business day of 2012, County Attorney John Ciampoli sought a controversial and highly unusual court order to push outstanding property tax refunds from 2012 to 2013, in order to make the county appear to have a budget surplus on its 2012 annual financial report, the last annual financial report before Maragos and County Executive Ed Mangano face re-election.  Maragos has repeatedly defended the surplus, which he called “like a miracle,” noting that auditors have certified his report. Auditors never certified the claim of a budgetary surplus.

“Every CPA knows that you cannot hide behind the old ‘the auditors certified it, so it’s correct,’ line,” said Weitzman. “The county’s financial statements are the responsibility of the Comptroller, not outside auditors. Even so, auditors also certified statements by Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers before their misdeeds were exposed.”

The threatening letter received by Weitzman alleges that his complaint could have “the potential to seriously affect the County’s ability to obtain financing in the near future.” This claim is patently absurd because the only way the complaint could affect the county’s ability to obtain financing would be if the SEC finds that the financial statements falsely masked the County’s 2012 deficit. In that case, Weitzman’s concerns would be validated.

Counsel for Mr. Weitzman submitted a letter responding to the outside counsel hired at the behest of Mr. Maragos.  In the letter, Weitzman’s attorney contends: “We will seek sanctions and attorneys fees in the event that you commence a frivolous lawsuit against Mr. Weitzman. We will be glad to use that opportunity to conduct discovery and expose the truth behind the ‘voodoo accounting’ upon which Mr. Maragos’ ‘miraculous’ surplus is based.”

County legislators have started to ask questions about the cost and appropriateness of Ciampoli’s actions.  Concerns have been raised about whether it is appropriate to hire lawyers at public expense to intimidate critics of the administration.

News

Philip D’Aguanno, 79, of Melville, passed away on Oct. 15. Loving husband of Maria. Devoted Father, father-in-law and grandfather. A funeral mass was held at S.t Kilian R.C. Church. Interment Holy Rood Cemetery. Funeral arrangements entrusted to the McCourt & Trudden Funeral Home, Inc.


The Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a Farmingdale-based advocacy group, recently joined state lawmakers and Massapequa water district officials for a press conference calling on New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the proposed Navy Grumman Plume Remediation Act (A9492), which has already passed both the state Assembly and Senate, in an effort to protect Long Island’s drinking water and the Great South Bay from the Grumman-U.S. Navy underground plume of toxic chemicals. 


Sports

Nassau County ASA President Keith O’Donnell and Chief Umpire Vincent Donnelly recently presented a $2400 check to Over the Hill Gang President Jim Reilly. The donation will be added to the funds the men’s softball league raised on behalf of Sal Pugliese Jr. as the young boy battles a rare hip disorder. The OTHG would like to thank the ASA for its generous contribution to a fantastic local cause.

—Submitted by the Over the Hill Gang


Farmingdale runners Theresa Gannon, Chris Bartlett, Patty Baker and Jenine Cottone each came home with an award from the Blue Ribbon 10 kilometer and 5 kilometer runs for Prostate Cancer at Syosset-Woodbury Community Park. 


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