Dumbest Local Government

From Governing, Feb 2003

What is the dumbest local government in America? Hard to say, but at least until recently New York’s affluent suburb of Nassau County would have to be a contender. How dumb was Nassau’s government? So dumb that it bought 1,200 computers a few years ago as backups for the Y2K problem, then left them in boxes for three years as employees begged for upgrades. So dumb that it paid for nearly 1,400 telephone lines that weren’t used; most weren’t even hooked up to phones. And more: Its records were in such disarray, it didn’t know how many employees it had or how much property it owned. It even had its nights and days mixed up: Cops were paid a “night differential” for work after dark. Problem was, it kicked in at 11a.m. The new county attorney was horrified by the chaos in her department. “I don’t know if it’s the funniest or saddest thing,” she said, “but we found a local statute which had been repealed—then two years later was amended.” Thankfully, there’s a new administration in Nassau County (the new county executive says, “It was far worse than I ever imagined.”) But it could take a while to straighten out a government this dumb. Take, for instance, the elevator at the county executive’s building. When you took it to the ground floor, it told you you were at the seventh floor. Not just wrong, but dumb. The building has only five floors.