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Hempstead Town Board files notice of appeal over Gillen lawsuit

The board signals it may seek to overturn a no-layoff clause ruling in a suit filed against the board by Supervisor Laura Gillen.

Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, center, had sued the

Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, center, had sued the Hempstead Town Board.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Board has filed a notice of appeal in response to a ruling last month in Supervisor Laura Gillen's lawsuit against the board, signaling that the yearlong legal battle over measures passed shortly before Gillen took office may not be over.

Ronald J. Rosenberg, the board's attorney, said Tuesday that the ruling, which upheld 197 personnel transfers but ordered a no-layoff provision for town union workers be voided, "sets a dangerous precedent" and "constitutes an invasion of the judicial branch into the province of the coequal branch of the legislature."

He said the board now has six months to actually appeal the ruling, but he was "not at liberty right now" to say whether it would do so.

Gillen denounced the notice of appeal in a statement Tuesday.

"I call on the Town Council members to stop wasting taxpayer money on their frivolous attempts to save face and preserve business as usual," she said.

Gillen, a Democrat, and a group of "resident taxpayers," brought the Article 78 petition last April against the Republican-controlled town board, former Supervisor Anthony Santino, a Republican, and the Civil Service Employees Association.

Gillen argued in the suit that the no-layoff clause and personnel transfers passed by the board in December 2017, one month before she took office, were meant to protect patronage employees and hamstring her authority as supervisor.

Roni F. Epstein, attorney for the taxpayers, said she's confident the ruling "will not be overturned."

Rosenberg said the CSEA has filed a separate notice of appeal. The CSEA did not respond to a request for comment.

Santino's attorney, Andrew K. Preston, said his office filed a notice of appeal Tuesday on Santino's behalf.

Town board members were divided over the appeal. Republican Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney was opposed, saying Tuesday, "It's just time to move on."

Councilman Bruce Blakeman, a Republican,   said he supported the notice of appeal, but would prefer that the supervisor, board and union negotiate a resolution, instead of pursuing the appeal.

Republican Councilmen  Anthony D'Esposito and Dennis Dunne said they supported appealing.

Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby,   a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment.

A Nassau County Supreme Court judge found in March that the board should not have approved adding the no-layoff clause to the town's collective bargaining agreement with CSEA, as Santino and D'Esposito should have recused themselves because they had relatives who worked for the town. 

Without their votes, the measure — which was approved 4-3 — would not have passed.

Judge Randy Sue Marber, however,dismissed Gillen's contention that the 197 personnel transfers approved by the town board at the same meeting had been illegal.

The Hempstead Town Board has filed a notice of appeal in response to a ruling in Supervisor Laura Gillen's lawsuit against the board, signaling that the yearlong legal battle over measures passed shortly before Gillen took office may not be over.

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