Written by Joe Scotchie and Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 05 February 2010 00:00
Yatauro Accuses him of Stalling, Criticizes His Plan for RepealAfter facing a hail of criticism and a possible legal action, Presiding Officer Peter J. Schmitt decided to ask that the pay raises for the Nassau County Legislature’s three top legislative leaders be rescinded. Schmitt had proposed the raises originally.
“After much personal reflection and many conversations with residents of Nassau County, I have determined that the Legislative Leadership stipend increases introduced and passed on January 25, 2010 will be rescinded,” Schmitt said in a statement delivered last Friday.
“I’ve based my decision on three factors. First, as reported today our county executive faces a predicted shortfall of $89 million in sales tax receipts to Nassau County for 2009. Second, I am influenced by the announcement that LIPA has rescinded its plan to give 2 percent raises to its employees this year. Lastly, the U.S. Department of Labor has reported that the average increase in compensation for U.S. workers reported in 2009 was the lowest in decades.
“My belief is that the legislators and the leadership of the Nassau County Legislature are woefully under compensated,” Schmitt maintained. “However, now is not the time and I am not immune to the plight of my Nassau County neighbors, friends and businesses in this economy.”
In response to Schmitt’s decision, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro said, “Mr. Schmitt reversed himself on his raise because he heard loud and clear from his constituents, taxpayer organizations and our caucus that the timing for this raise was totally out of line. The public will long remember his shameful money grab attempt.”
Yatauro has gone on to accuse stalling this week regarding the rescission and to criticize the details of Schmitt’s plan for the repeal of the raises. She delivered a letter to County Executive Ed Mangano calling upon him to join in co-sponsoring a bill filed by the minority on Jan. 27 to repeal the raises.
“I am tired of watching my legislative colleague say one thing and do another,” said Yatauro. “On Jan. 29 at 4:44 p.m. Schmitt filed proposed ordinance (Clerk Item No. 32-10) to rescind the raises and made a public announcement to the press. However, on Monday, Feb. 1, during the Rules Committee Schmitt backtracked and did not call the ordinance.”
“This sure looks like stalling to me,” continued Yatauro. “I have now asked the county executive to join with us in co-sponsoring our resolution to rescind the raises and to urge Peter to place it on the next legislative calendar.”
Schmitt’s office responded to Anton Community Newspapers, “The first opportunity to rescind the procedural resolution is at the legislative meeting on Feb. 22. There is no delay. It is indeed on the calendar and it will be called.”
Yatauro further complained that the ordinance Schmitt has filed to rescind the raises sets out a complicated path to repeal the original 1996 stipend ordinance. It presumably would allow stipends to be set by something other than ordinance, such as the procedural resolution that Schmitt and his colleagues used last week to push through the raises.
“A procedural resolution needs only to be approved by a majority of the legislature and does not move through the committee structure of the legislature, nor are procedural resolutions subject to the same checks and balances as ordinances, such as a veto, by the county executive,” she stated. “This would allow the presiding officer to raise the leadership’s salaries sometime in the future with arguably insufficient checks and balances and standard oversight provisions.”
The pay raise was approved, as noted, on Monday, Jan. 25, during the first meeting of the Nassau County Legislature. The raises went to Schmitt, Deputy Presiding Officer John Ciotti and Minority Leader Diane Yatauro. The pay raise vote went along party lines, with 11 Republicans voting for the raise, and eight Democrats in opposition. As mentioned, a vote on rescinding the pay raises is expected to take place the next time the legislature meets, which is on Feb. 22.
The pay raise amounted to a stipend increase. Base pay for all legislators is $39,500. That salary is set by the County Charter and must be amended for all legislators to get raises. The presiding officer’s current stipend is $28,000. The legislation would have increased that to $60,000, making the total salary $99,500 (the stipend added to the $39,500 base salary). The deputy presiding officer’s salary would have increased from $62,500 to $84,000, by the stipend being increased to $45,000. And, with the stipend for the minority leader increased to $51,000, it would have made that total salary go from $63,500 to $90,500.