“I have voted on every town board personnel calendar since I have become a member of the board,” Anthony D’Esposito, a Hempstead Town Board member, said in a statement to Newsday last week — in defense of his vote to give his mom a raise.
“Doing so is proper and presents absolutely no conflict,” D’Esposito said.
And he’s darn right.
No, wait, stop — the mom in me just wrote that.
But that’s the common default move when family is involved.
And, recently, in municipalities around Long Island, its been the position of choice — even when it’s not supposed to be.
In Republican-run Hempstead, for example, D’Esposito’s heart may have been in the right place. But governmentally, and ethically, he was well off the mark.
That vote for mom makes murky how he operates as a town lawmaker, whose job is supposed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in handling municipal business.
Recusal certainly would have been the better option. And a safer one politically too, since raising the salary for mom — Carmen D’Esposito, a secretary to the town’s highway department’s commissioner, to $88,939 a year — would have gone through without D’Esposito’s vote anyway.
But D’Esposito — who, this week was named Hempstead’s deputy supervisor after the council member who had the job, Edward Ambrosino, pleaded not guilty to federal tax-evasion charges — is hardly the region’s only elected official catching flak for family matters.
In Democrat-run North Hempstead, the town board recently approved changes in ethics regulations after six top officials resigned or were fired.
They included former Highway Superintendent Thomas P. Tiernan, who stepped aside after questions were raised about his overtime; and his sister, Helen McCann, a former administrative assistant, who was charged by the Nassau County district attorney’s office with embezzling cash from the town’s Solid Waste Management Agency.
North Hempstead’s updated ethics codes are supposed to help eliminate conflicts of interest.
And a nepotism-related section restricts employees from supervising relatives. Job applicants also must disclose the names of family members already on the payroll — another change brought on by the town’s look at Tiernan, who to the surprise of some officials also had a brother, son and daughter-in-law on the town payroll.
Tiernan declined to comment when news reports about his overtime appeared last year. McCann pleaded not guilty
Another major clash of family values came recently in Suffolk County. There, county lawmakers and the county executive decided to turn the clock back to 2011 — to retroactively approve almost $200,000 in unauthorized pay hikes and benefits for a term-limited legislator’s daughter.
Last week, an analysis by Suffolk’s legislative Budget Review Office found that the daughter of Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) received the compensation from promotions she got beginning in 2011. The promotions were supposed to have been approved by the county legislature, but resolutions authorizing waivers from Suffolk’s nepotism restrictions never were submitted.
Barraga’s daughter, Elaine Barraga, works for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, as a county attorney.
Barraga, father and daughter, have declined to comment.
Nepotism served neat doesn’t help taxpayers; and it certainly doesn’t help good employees whose relatives just happen to work for the same shop.
Did Carmen D’Esposito, mom, deserve a raise? Yes, always.
Ah, but did D’Esposito, the public-paid secretary?
Blurring family lines makes it tough to tell.