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Hempstead proposes restriction on seeking office

Town Supervisor Laura Gillen wants to bar appointees who fill vacancies from seeking election for that seat.

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen says appointees have an

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen says appointees have an unfair advantage when they run for election. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen has proposed new legislation blocking town board appointees from running for elected office.

Gillen’s proposal, which will go before the town board for a vote Tuesday, would require that anyone appointed to fill a vacancy in an elected town office make a commitment that they will not later seek election to the seat.

"When such an appointment is made, the appointee inherits the benefits of the office, as well as the power of apparent incumbency, which gives an inequitable advantage over any other prospective candidate," the resolution reads. "It is fundamental to a representative democracy that the people within the district (or town-wide) vote to elect its representative, without the Town Board having tipped the scale."

The five Republicans on the town board were initially appointed to their seats and later elected. Gillen and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, both Democrats, were first elected to their seats.

Town board members voted last year to indefinitely table Gillen's proposal for a public hearing on whether the town should hold public referendums on filling vacancies through special elections instead of by appointments.

Jerry H. Goldfeder, a professor at Fordham University School of Law who specializes in election law, said he believed Gillen's proposal would be legal.

Goldfeder said Gillen's proposal was "a creative solution on the road to actual special elections."

"It's always preferable to have a special election than an appointment process when there is a vacancy," he said.

There are three council seats up for election November. Bruce Blakeman and Erin King Sweeney are seeking re-election, while Ed Ambrosino is not. Ambrosino is under indictment on tax evasion and wire fraud charges. He pleaded not guilty.

The town board will also hold public hearings on restricting the sale of and use of marijuana in the town, in anticipation of state legalization, and on proposed revisions to the town's ethics code.

The board meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. at Hempstead Town Hall, 1 Washington St.

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