The Republican-controlled Hempstead Town Board has filled the opening created by the conviction of former Clerk Mark Bonilla by appointing his office's administrative supervisor to the position.
Democrats cried foul after the 6-1 vote at Tuesday's meeting to appoint Nasrin Ahmad, saying it allows her to run as an incumbent in Tuesday's Conservative Party primary and in the general election in November.
"It is not this board's place to predetermine the decision of the voters, nor is it our right to create for any candidate an advantage that improperly influences the voters," said Democratic Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby.
Republicans in May picked Ahmad to run for Bonilla's post; Bonilla was convicted in July of official misconduct. Deputy Town Clerk Phil Guarnieri succeeded Bonilla after he was removed from his post last month. Ahmad, 56, of Salisbury, has been an administrative supervisor in the clerk's office for 15 years.
"The fact that a general election is over two months away has no bearing whatsoever on the actions of this board," said senior town councilman and Nassau County GOP spokesman Anthony Santino. "While the first deputy town clerk is doing a fine job in an interim capacity, it is in fact in the best interest of the people to have an individual actually vested with the authority of the town clerk as the head of that office."
Ahmad will face Patricia A. Basso-Friedman in the Conservative primary. Ahmad also is on the Republican line and will run against the Democratic nominee, insurance law attorney Jasmine Garcia-Vieux, 36, of Levittown, in the general election.
"You're influencing the primary wrongfully," Basso-Friedman, 76, of Garden City, told Town Supervisor Kate Murray.
Ahmad, who was born in Uganda and grew up in India and England, said after the meeting, "The political process will still go on. I'm still going to run the primary and the elections."
Democrats said the board should have followed town code that requires the board to replace any elected official who vacates a position with one of three predetermined successors.
"The only reason to make this appointment is to give Nasrin Ahmad the advantage to run as an incumbent and use taxpayers' money to get her name and picture on town mailings," said Felix Procacci of Franklin Square, the Democratic candidate for supervisor.
But town attorney Joseph Ra said after the meeting that the law refers to naming successors for town supervisor in the event of an attack. The law was passed in 1962 due to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ra said. "The law of the state . . . gives the town board the authority to appoint in an event of a vacancy," Ra said.