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Hempstead councilwoman calls for probe of commissioner's contract that led to post-retirement jobs

Ana-Maria Hurtado, seen in 2009, is the former

Ana-Maria Hurtado, seen in 2009, is the former Town of Hempstead commissioner of the Department of Occupational Resources. Credit: Pablo Corradi

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney on Sunday called for an outside investigation into a contract signed by a town commissioner in 2017 that led to post-retirement jobs for the commissioner and two co-workers in the department where they had worked.

"Recent allegations in Newsday concerning operations in Town of Hempstead Department of Occupational Resources have given all of us concern. I am calling for outside investigation by Ethics Counsel & Compliance Officer to get full understanding of facts of this situation," King Sweeney wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

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 there as Alcott employees, said the current commissioner, Gregory Becker.

Becker did not immediately respond Sunday to a request for comment on King Sweeney's call for an investigation.

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

King Sweeney, however, said she planned to meet with counsel Monday before deciding how she would vote on the measure, saying she wanted to know what impact rejecting the proposal would have on government grants to the federally-funded department.

In an interview Sunday, King Sweeney said she doesn't "have enough information yet" about whether Hurtado's handling of the contract may have violated town or state ethics laws.

"As far as I'm concerned, just find out what these facts are and then we will make rational, reasonable opinions based on those. I also don't want to rush to judgment."

King Sweeney, the leader of the Republican majority on the town board, could not say whether her GOP board colleagues would support an outside investigation.

Democratic Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, who took office after the Alcott contract was signed, criticized it in a statement Saturday afternoon.

"This is yet another example of the 'corruption tax' that hurts honest, hardworking taxpayers to benefit the politically entrenched and well-connected," she wrote on Facebook.

King Sweeney said the investigation would probably be conducted by town Compliance Officer Thomas Willdigg and the town's outside ethics counsel Steven Leventhal.

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