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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Where’s my computer — and my phone, and my chair?

In Hempstead, a mysterious effort to strip the office of the new town clerk was a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

Sylvia Cabana, seen on May 26, 2015, was

Sylvia Cabana, seen on May 26, 2015, was sworn in as Hempstead town clerk on Jan. 1, 2018. Photo Credit: James Escher

Sylvia Cabana, Hempstead’s new town clerk, spent part of her first day on the job performing a few wedding ceremonies, one of the perks of a position that includes issuing birth, death and burial certificates.

But that was after Cabana’s office reached out to the new town supervisor — and fellow Democrat — for help in furnishing the office.

This wasn’t a case of Cabana having to decide what style of desk, type of telephone or kind of computer and chair she wanted to use.

Instead, it was Cabana seeking help in locating any sort of desk, telephone, computer, chair or other equipment. To the surprise of Cabana’s staff, all that, and more, had been carted out of the office.

Also, at least one town car issued to the clerk’s office — and, for now, let’s ignore the question of why the town’s chief record keeper needs a town-issued car in the first place — couldn’t be located either.

On Wednesday, Michael Fricchione, a town spokesman, said officials didn’t know yet where everything went.

Nonetheless, he said Cabana and Supervisor Laura Gillen wanted to put the incident behind them. “It was frustrating, but we’re willing to chalk it up to there was a lot going on Tuesday and we want to move on,” Fricchione said.

For the moment, no, let’s not.

It took public workers, on the public dime, to remove the desk, chair, telephone, computer and other furnishings from the clerk’s office, in a town where a Democrat for the first time in 100 years replaced a Republican as supervisor.

Confronted with her empty office Tuesday, Cabana first called Gillen’s office, which called the town’s general services department, which, Fricchione said, set out on a search mission. A telephone was among the first items to be returned that day.

Cabana’s staff on Tuesday also inquired as to where the town vehicle might be. “They told us, ‘We are trying to find her car,’” Fricchione said.

By Wednesday, there was progress: The furnishings — and the car — had been returned for Cabana’s use, he said.

Ah, but something still seems to be missing — acknowledgment that taxpayers paid for the furniture, the car (and gas and upkeep) and for the labor wasted by the stripping of the office in the first place.

As it is, Hempstead taxpayers are going to be paying both Cabana and Nasrin Ahmad, the former clerk, who lost to her.

Ahmad, as part of a last-minute maneuver by outgoing GOP Supervisor Anthony Santino to protect some town workers, kept a six-figure salary when she was moved to another town job in the Department of Occupational Resources.

But the department couldn’t afford to add her to the payroll. So Ahmad was moved again, and she and her $129,500 salary ended up in parks.

Hempstead residents foot high tax bills because of things like the office furniture shenanigans and protected patronage jobs.

That’s one reason so many residents stood in line, in the biting cold, in the last days of 2017, attempting to blunt the impact of a federal tax reform — which caps deductions of state and local taxes at $10,000 — by paying some of those taxes early.

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