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Paychecks delayed for Glen Cove workers after city fires controller

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke had been calling

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke had been calling for Controller Sandra Clarson to resign. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Glen Cove's controller has been terminated, resulting in delayed paychecks for hundreds of workers who were scheduled to be paid Thursday morning.

Sandra Clarson said she received notice of her termination in a letter from Mayor Timothy Tenke dated Aug. 16.

Tenke called for Clarson to resign in July at a news conference after she compiled a report showing the city had not deducted health insurance premiums from Tenke’s paychecks since he took office in January 2018.

Tenke said the mistake was Clarson's fault, but she disputes that. 

Tenke said last month that he asked for Clarson's resignation in December and had brought in several candidates to interview for the position. All had been "summarily dismissed" by the Republican-controlled City Council, he added. 

“This is all retaliation for exposing health insurance issues,” Clarson said in a statement. “I am a whistleblower.”

Clarson was appointed in January 2017 and reappointed the following year. She was not reappointed this past January and is considered a holdover. According to payroll records that Newsday obtained through a state Freedom of Information Law request, Clarson's total pay in 2018 was $145,239.

Clarson filed a petition in Nassau Supreme Court on Aug. 20 seeking a declaratory judgment stating that she is still the Glen Cove controller and that the city restore her access to the finance office.

Clarson wrote in court papers that Tenke “does not have the authority to summarily terminate a public officer” and that he didn’t follow the procedure outlined by state law.

She also wrote that if she wasn’t allowed to return to work “the entire city’s workforce of approximately 400 employees will not be paid.”

“I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and employees,” Clarson wrote. “It is imperative that I be permitted to return to work so that the City of Glen Cove will continue to operate smoothly.”

Tenke said in a statement that he had taken “emergency steps” to ensure city employees were paid Thursday, and had issued an “executive order” to authorize Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos to certify the payroll.

The delay was caused by a Civil Service Employees Association union representative who said certain employees were not authorized to complete the payroll funds transfer because it “falls outside the scope of their titles,” the mayor's statement Thursday said.

Maureen Pappachristou, the CSEA representative and a secretary for the Glen Cove Police Department, said the paychecks were not delayed because of union interference.

"The Mayor’s office did not react until yesterday [Wednesday], which is what caused the delay," Pappachristou said in a statement. "There was adequate time to address the payroll issue on Tuesday."  

City employees received an email, obtained by Newsday, on Wednesday night that their paychecks would be distributed late.

“The Mayor has asked that I notify all employees that due to the unusual situation of being temporarily without a Controller, the processing of this week’s payroll has been slightly delayed,” the email from Basdavanos reads. “We plan to have paychecks distributed or direct deposited (as you normally receive your paycheck) by late Thursday or Friday.”

Councilman Joseph Capobianco said Tenke had proposed a candidate for controller, but added that he wasn't sure the council would vote on appointing the candidate at Tuesday's council meeting.

"This could have been thought out much better," Capobianco said. "It seems like he shot first and asked questions later, and now all these poor employees are left out in the lurch."