Hempstead Town hired a Nassau County Supreme Court judge — who this week announced his retirement from the bench — as the supervisor’s chief of staff.
Town board members Tuesday unanimously approved Judge Jack Libert's new $185,000 role serving under Supervisor Don Clavin and to appoint Clavin’s current chief of staff Joseph Nocella as town attorney.
Libert, 71, a Republican from Oyster Bay, is scheduled to start Monday.
As chief of staff, Libert will oversee all operations and commissioners of the town. He previously ran the Town of Oyster Bay building and public works departments and was chairman of the Oyster Bay Zoning Board of Appeals.
He also served as counsel to the Oceanside Sanitation District in 2014 and was elected in 2015 to a 14-year term with the Nassau Supreme Court, earning $174,000. He primarily oversees civil cases. One of his recent decisions was handing down a $131 million judgment against the City of Long Beach last week over undeveloped property.
State Supreme Court judges are generally required to retire at age 70, but can appeal to serve until they are 76. Libert was granted a two-year extension before he was approached by Clavin last year. His vacancy on the court was already filled in last November’s election.
"Hempstead is the largest town in the country and serving as the administrator and the person on the front line other than the supervisor is very exciting to me once this opportunity came along," Libert said Tuesday.
Clavin, also a Republican, and Libert said they’ve known each other since Libert appeared as an attorney before Clavin’s father, who was a Nassau County judge.
"I’ve known the judge a long time. He has an incredible municipal background and is a respected member of the bench," Clavin said. "He’s going to be the eyes and ears of the town, keeping myself advised of what‘s going on and should be a wonderful fit."
Nocella, who previously served as Oyster Bay town attorney, was appointed when Clavin took office last year. He will receive an $8,000 raise as he replaces longtime attorney Joe Ra, who retired in March. Acting town attorney Charles Kovit will remain as chief deputy town attorney.
Town board members also approved an additional $250,000 in raises and promotions Tuesday for 22 town employees, including a $51,000 raise for Anthony Lamuro, who was promoted from law assistant to deputy town clerk.
Lisa Murphy, the town’s director of senior enrichment and daughter of former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, received a $5,000 raise, boosting her salary to $146,000 annually.
Clavin said the raises were earned and deserving for town employees.
"A lot of civil servants are doing a tremendous job during this pandemic, and these were warranted," Clavin said. "The town is in wonderful shape financially, and we can afford it for these men and women, who are hardworking individuals."
The board also approved extending a grant for Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside to continue a COVID-19 drive-thru rapid testing site through February. Funding remains in the original $446,000 grant the town gave to the hospital in November. Testing is available through appointments by calling 516-390-2888.