The following is a look back at some of the top stories in Nassau County over the past week:
Temporary Control of Finances Returned to Mangano
The Mangano administration once again has full control over county finances — for the moment, anyway.
On Friday, State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond ruled that the Nassau Interim Finance Authority cannot take control of Nassau's finances until he determines whether or not the takeover, which occurred Jan. 24, was legal.
County Executive Ed Mangano, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the county, released the following statement:
“[Friday’s] court proceedings further indicate the level of concern that both the court and residents should have over NIFA’s unfounded action to issue a control period over county finances. Nassau County families and seniors should not be victim to an unaccountable and non-elected board that seeks to be another level of government. We already pay the second highest property taxes in the nation and NIFA’s actions have simply created a distraction from the real work that needs to get done.”
NIFA, a state fiscal watchdog created by Albany to oversee county finances in the event of a financial crisis, after board members maintained that Mangano was not operating with a fiscally sound budget this year.
Mangano, Rice Close Down County Crime Lab
After calling for the of the Nassau County Crime Lab last week, Mangano and District Attorney Kathleen Rice have decided to shut down the entire facility while officials conduct further investigation.
Rice recently said that drug chemistry officials produced "inaccurate test results" in six cases involving the drugs MDMA (ecstasy) and Ketamine. Last December, a state audit on the crime lab found several violations related to procedure and policy, prompting plans for a new lab and the crime lab's placement on probation. On Thursday, Rice said her office was informed that some police supervisors might have been aware of the problems before the audit was made public. She said her office will conduct a complete review of the crime lab's activities.
"Let me be clear, at this time we have found no evidence of wrong doing or compromised analysis outside of the drug chemistry section of the lab," Rice said. "It is out of an abundance of caution and in light of Thursday’s new information that the county executive and I have made the decision for a full and immediate lab closure."
Police would not comment on the lab's closing.
Dems Challenge Mangano's Handling of Assessment Reform
On Tuesday, two Democratic lawmakers called on Mangano to increase transparency in the assessment grievance process, saying that many residents are being forced to challenge their home's assessment with limited information.
"Residents need more critical information regarding assessed value, the result of last year's grievance, and comparable sales the county used to calculate a home's assessed value," said Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick. "Without information, residents are left in the dark."
Denenberg was joined by Legis. Wayne Wink, D-Roslyn, in requesting that Mangano provide more information to the public before the grievance deadline, which is March 1. Many homeowners, they say, have not received details on their home's assessed values, making it difficult for them to file a grievance. In addition, the lawmakers say residents can no longer compare home values to get an estimated assessed value on the county's Department of Assessment website.
Mangano's office responded by saying that Denenberg, Wink, and other Democratic lawmakers had the power to make changes in the county's assessment system when they were in power, but chose not to. Mangano is now trying to clean up the mess.
"The truth remains that county executive Mangano inherited a broken assessment system that wastes $250 million annually and has resulted in $1.6 billion in debt and outstanding liabilities," said Brian Nevin, senior policy advisor and communications director for Mangano. "The county executive has implemented numerous reforms to the system to correct the problems and stop the waste."