Town officials point blame over comptroller resignation

Town officials point blame over comptroller resignation
Ex-North Hempstead Comptroller Kristen Schwaner. (Photo courtesy of SightGrowthPartners)

North Hempstead officials have continued to blame each other for the sudden resignation of Comptroller Kristen Schwaner, who left the town in August after four months on the job.

In an interview with Blank Slate Media, North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, a Republican, said ex-Comptroller Kristen Schwaner was repeatedly asked to change her opinion on using investment firm NYCLASS by town majority officials and their staff.

“She felt that she was unable to work in this environment,” DeSena said. “She was being asked to come to meetings with a councilperson and then the councilperson wasn’t there. It was the town board majority’s staff directing her what to do. She did not feel that was a safe environment and that is why she left, unfortunately.”

DeSena said Schwaner, who was hired earlier this year after an extensive bipartisan search process, was invited to a meeting with Councilmember Veronica Lurvey, a Democrat; Mitchell Pitnick, secretary to the commissioner of finance; and businessman Adam Haber, the former head of economic development for the Town of Hempstead at which she was asked to use NYCLASS’ for the town. Long Island municipalities that use the local government’s investment pool include Nassau and Suffolk Counties and over 40 villages, among others. 

Using the services of a firm like NYCLASS would require the town to issue a request for proposal, otherwise known as an RFP, where companies offer bids to work with the town.

Lurvey and Pitnick said DeSena blaming others for Schwaner’s departure was a diversion from the broader trend that qualified candidates are leaving the town due to her and her office. 

Efforts to reach Schwaner for comment were unavailing. 

“If it was just one instance, I would write it off because attrition is natural. But we now see a disturbing pattern,” Lurvey said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “Unfortunately, the supervisor and her leadership team seem to have created a working environment that is causing dedicated and valuable public servants to reconsider their commitment to public service.”

Pitnick said DeSena’s statements are inaccurate and instead of blaming others for Schwaner’s departure she “should be accepting responsibility for the actions her staff had on the comptroller resigning.”

Lurvey and Haber both acknowledged the meeting DeSena referenced but said it was purely informational, with Lurvey saying previous requests to talk to DeSena on the same issue were ignored. 

Haber said in an interview with Blank Slate Media he has given dozens of presentations throughout the state on possible ways for municipalities or organizations to manage their money.

“I was invited to give non-partisan, good government, municipal finance suggestions like I’ve done dozens of times before all over New York State,” Haber said. “Maximizing revenue by placing account balances in the highest interest-bearing accounts approved by the state comptroller is a no-risk way for the Town of North Hempstead to earn an approximately additional $1 million in interest income.”

Lurvey added that short-term interest rates have risen to over 5% now compared to 0.2% in January last year when DeSena’s term began, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Schwaner, who was set to make $160,000 this year, was unanimously appointed to the role in April after an extensive bipartisan search process.

Prior to Schwaner’s appointment, Finance Director Paul Wood was appointed interim comptroller and now has been appointed again to the same position following Schwaner’s departure. 

Lurvey also said DeSena should stop disparaging town employees and pay more attention to the town’s finances to prevent losing potential income. 

That’s the real story, and instead of creating a work environment where she casts aspersions on the motives of her fellow Town Board members at every opportunity, she should be working with her fellow Town Board members to appropriately ensure the financial health and stability of our Town,” Lurvey said. 

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