The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday approved one new ethics provision and rejected another in a meeting prefaced by a protest over an alleged ethics violation by town Supervisor Laura Gillen.
The board voted 6-0 to prohibit Building Department staffers from inspecting or approving plans for projects in which they or their relatives have an interest. The department is under investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney's Office.
Gillen said Wednesday the measure was enacted to "address some of the alleged corruption that I've heard about in that office."
The Republican-controlled board also voted 5-1 against scheduling a public hearing on another proposed ethics provision put forward by Gillen, a Democrat, which would have required Hempstead officials and employees to disclose whether any of their relatives also work for the town.
"That's a little intrusive on my members," Theresa Kohutka, the town’s CSEA union president, said in a public comment before the board voted down the measure.
Prior to the meeting, Kohutka and dozens of unionized town workers joined Don Clavin, Hempstead tax receiver and Republican candidate for supervisor, at a protest outside town hall over Gillen's alleged "misuse of taxpayer funds" to "attack" the union leadership.
"We are going to call for an ethics investigation of why the town supervisor used town resources to try and undermine the great leadership and work of the entire CSEA union delegation," Clavin said, surrounded by union workers carrying signs that read "Gillen is anti-union" and "#lyinglaura."
"Hopefully today she gets the message that we're not going to sit around and be bullied," Kohtuka said.
At issue is an email Gillen sent to town employees Sept. 18 to "set the record straight" regarding a number of labor issues the union has raised on social media. Union leaders, Gillen wrote, would "rather play politics instead of getting results for you, the hardworking members."
The union recently endorsed Clavin for supervisor.
Clavin on Wednesday said the email represented a misuse of taxpayer funds because of the wages for the town employee who typed the email and the cost of transmitting it on the town email system.
Gillen said Wednesday, regarding the protest: "The suggestion that I can't send correspondence to my workers is absurd."
Also on Tuesday, the board approved nine contracts between the Department of Occupational Resources and outside vendors. The town rebid all of the department's contracts following a Newsday report in June on a contract signed by the department's former commissioner that created post-retirement jobs for her and two co-workers in the town agency. At that time, the department, which is federally funded, was not subject to board oversight. In July, the board passed legislation requiring its signoff on the department's budgets and vendor contracts.
The board on Tuesday also adjourned a series of resolutions without a vote, despite Gillen's objections. The adjourned items included a contract for new software for the clerk's office, and another to carry out a host of energy-efficiency upgrades at town facilities that the supervisor's staff said would have saved Hempstead $11 million over 20 years.
The meeting Tuesday was the first without former Councilwoman and Republican Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney, who announced she was resigning for family reasons earlier this month.