News 12 examines ‘acting’ commissioners on LI

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Thomas Krumpter has been acting Nassau police commissioner for years but was in no hurry to get his title changed – and News 12 is taking a look at why.

Krumpter has served in his role for more than three years. By remaining “acting” commissioner, he has been able to earn thousands of dollars more than the county allows for an official hiring. Krumpter’s also not the only one in this type of situation – James Davis has been acting commissioner of Nassau’s Assessment Department for six years.

Municipal law expert Paul Sabatino says the use of acting commissioners to serve for an indefinite period of time is part of a troubling, if not illegal, trend. He argues that in nearly every instance, state law does not allow for the appointment of "acting commissioners." That's why departments have deputies or vice presidents.  As a result, Sabatino says municipalities are subject to legal challenges in response to any decision or ruling made by an “acting commissioner."

“It’s a powerful legal argument, which is what power, what authority did you have, since the title doesn't exist?” says Sabatino.

Property valuation attorney Laureen Harris recently filed suit against Nassau County on behalf of several small business owners who are contesting new penalties imposed by acting Assessment Commissioner Davis.  One of her arguments is that Davis continues to be “acting” assessor.

And what about the issue of transparency and the need for public vetting? Some lawmakers say by appointing acting commissioners, administrations are able to circumvent that process.

“It’s not a transparent government when you are not screening people,” says Legislator Ellen Birnbaum.

Birnbaum points out that while commissioner candidates are subject to legislative approval, acting commissioners operate without that same level of scrutiny. That's why she put forth a bill earlier this year that would limit acting commissioners to six months in office.

“I think we really ought to have somebody who is qualified, is screened, and meets legislative approval,” says Birnbaum.

Krumpter and Nassau County Executive Mangano declined News 12 Long Island’s interview requests. News 12 Long Island also reached out to Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, who has declined to bring Legislator Birnbaum's bill up for a vote, but has not heard back.

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