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Hempstead Town supervisor calls for 'criminal investigation' over contract

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen on Monday called on the Nassau district attorney's office to "launch a criminal investigation" into a contract signed by a former town commissioner. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen called on the Nassau County District Attorney's Office on Monday to "launch a criminal investigation" into a contract signed by a former town commissioner, and for the department's current commissioner to resign.

"The DA's office has agreed to take a look into the matter and has referred it to the office's public corruption unit," Gillen said.

Newsday reported on Saturday that Ana-Maria Hurtado, former commissioner of Hempstead’s Department of Occupational Resources, signed a two-year contract in March 2017 with Alcott HR, a human resources outsourcing company, to provide extra staff to the department.

Hurtado retired that July and became an Alcott employee four days later, according to the contract, payroll records and town officials. Scott Surkis and Edward Kenny, who retired from the department in 2016, also now work as Alcott employees, Commissioner Gregory Becker said.

Miriam Sholder, a spokeswoman for the Nassau DA, said the office was "reviewing the allegations" but declined to comment further.

Gillen criticized the contract, saying Monday it "was used to line the pockets of former employees performing the exact same back-office HR tasks and working in the exact same office that they were employed in when they worked for the town." 

She also said Becker should resign for "gross mismanagement" and "ignoring multiple directives to bring the department in line with federal funding." The department is federally funded.

Becker did not respond to a request for comment.

Gillen's statements went further than town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney's call on Sunday for Hempstead's compliance officer and ethics counsel to investigate the Alcott contract.

Gillen, a Democrat, called on the rest of the town board to back her request for Becker's resignation. 

King Sweeney, who leads the board's Republican majority, said she and councilmen Anthony D'Esposito, Dennis Dunne and Thomas Muscarella are waiting for the findings of any investigations into the contract before they decide whether to call on Becker to resign. Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby are away, King Sweeney said. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Gillen spokesman Mike Fricchione said the supervisor cannot fire Becker, as the town board votes on all hiring and firing of town employees.

The town board is set to vote on Tuesday on extending the contract, which expires June 30, through August, a board resolution shows.

Gillen said she would vote against the extension and call for a public hearing on revising Hempstead's code to give the town board greater oversight over the department's budget and expenditures.

The department runs the HempsteadWorks Career Center, which provides counseling and training to local job seekers. Its contracts typically have not gone before the town board, and its spending has not been subject to oversight, because it is federally funded, officials said.

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