The Hempstead Town Board is weighing a $9,000 contract to an animal advocate and former volunteer who has an active federal lawsuit against the town.
Board members tabled a motion Tuesday night to give activist and frequent town critic Diane Madden a three-month consulting contract to work on behalf of the shelter and promote animals for adoption. The job is under the supervision of the town attorney’s office.
Town board members said they did not review a resume for Madden, and no other candidates were considered. The contract was not subject to the town’s request for proposals policy because it was for less than $10,000.
Town Attorney Joe Ra and the department of general services said they were not involved in the screening of the contract before it was proposed by Councilman Anthony D’Esposito.
The board voted 5-2 with D’Esposito and Erin King Sweeney dissenting to table the motion. Board members can bring the contract back for a vote at any time without placing it on an agenda.
Dozens of animal shelter volunteers protested Madden’s appointment during Tuesday’s meeting opposite about a dozen of Madden’s supporters.
“The goal is to get animals out of the shelter without regard for personalities,” D’Esposito said.
Councilmembers said they were inundated with calls and emails opposing the contract, Councilman Bruce Blakeman said.
“It has come to my attention that this was going to be a controversial situation and we decided it should be put over,” Blakeman said. “There are no shenanigans. We’re not trying to pull a fast one. I have no doubt Diane’s heart is in the animals. This is not an indictment of Diane Madden and I’m keeping an open mind.”
Madden filed a lawsuit against the town in 2016 after Madden and three shelter employees claimed retaliation for complaining about director Michael Pastore’s operation of the shelter. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip. She is seeking to move the shelter into a private administration.
She previously settled a 2010 federal lawsuit for $150,000 with the town alleging her First Amendment rights were violated when she was banned by two other volunteers for speaking out against alleged mistreatment of animals.
Madden said during Tuesday’s meeting that her lawyer was watching the meeting, and she would respond to every comment against her.