Two Hempstead Town Board members on Tuesday called for ethics reforms and an inspector general’s review of town contracts, but a vote on an emergency resolution for the proposal failed.
Councilman Bruce Blakeman proposed adding the resolution to Tuesday’s voting calendar to create an inspector general as an independent investigator to monitor waste, corruption and fraud in town government. The proposal was backed by Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney.
Town Attorney Joe Ra said the vote was on adding the emergency resolution, not the merits of the motion. Blakeman said he would work with the town attorney to add the motion to a future agenda.
The push for an immediate vote was defeated 4-3. Supervisor Anthony Santino and council members Dorothy Goosby, Gary Hudes and Anthony D’Esposito voted down adding the motion. Blakeman, King Sweeney and Councilman Ed Ambrosino voted in favor of it.
Goosby said she voted against the measure because she was not able to review it in advance. She called it an “insult” for Blakeman to rush it to the town board during Tuesday’s meeting.
Santino’s staff provided a written statement immediately after the vote, promoting the administration’s open bids posted online, contract reviews and transparency.
“Hempstead Town has strong safeguards in place to protect against waste, fraud and abuse within its government,” Santino said in the statement. “Sound and sensible policies, not political grandstanding, are the measure of responsible government.”
The proposed inspector general would have included an annual salary of $125,000 for two years. The office would start with a budget of $250,000 and the appointment would require six of the seven votes on the town board.
King Sweeney abstained from voting on 13 resolutions after the motion was defeated, which all required the expenditure of town funds. She said she was abstaining from votes while asking for a review of conflicts of interest in town contracts.
The legislation was introduced during the first meeting attended by Ambrosino since he was arrested last month on charges of income-tax evasion and wire fraud, though Blakeman said that did not prompt the proposal. Ambrosino’s charges were unrelated to the town board.
Ambrosino declined to comment on the ethics reforms effort, but spoke for the first time since Santino and Hudes asked him to step down.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Ambrosino said Tuesday.
The push for an immediate vote is “completely unrelated to Councilman Ambrosino’s legal issues,” Blakeman said after the meeting, noting that he’s been thinking of the legislation for a while. Blakeman said residents won’t believe the results of any internal investigation and an inspector general “will restore their faith in government.”