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Hempstead councilwoman proposes creating reserve account

Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney is proposing a

Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney is proposing a reserve account be created to fund legal costs associated with a lawsuit filed by the town supervisor. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney has asked that the town’s comptroller establish a reserve account to fund legal costs in connection with a lawsuit Supervisor Laura Gillen filed against former Supervisor Anthony Santino, the town board, its civil service commission and its union.

Gillen sued the parties in Nassau County Supreme Court on April 11 in the hopes of reversing personnel changes and a no-layoff union agreement approved by the town board under Santino’s leadership in December.

King Sweeney sent a memo to Comptroller Kevin Conroy last Wednesday and posted a copy to social media the next day. The action to establish a reserve account would not require approval from the town board.

The town board voted 5-1 last Tuesday to hire Bee, Ready, Fishbein, Hatter & Donovan LLP to represent Santino in the case because “the town attorney has a conflict of interest by the very nature of the parties in the matter.” Gillen voted against the hiring because she said the firm had a conflict, though she said she didn’t have a problem with the town paying for Santino’s counsel.

Gillen also plans to apply for the town to cover her legal costs and says her lawsuit is to protect taxpayers from the decisions made during Santino’s final days in office.

King Sweeney, along with Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, voted against the no-layoff clause in December. Blakeman and Goosby also voted against the personnel moves.

“It would not be acceptable if town services, operations and programs funded by the Town’s general fund were to be in any way compromised as a result of this action and we must therefore ensure that sufficient moneys are set aside in reserve,” King Sweeney said.

In addition to Gillen’s and Santino’s lawyers, each of the six council members could likely get their own attorneys, as well as the four members of the town’s civil service commission. The town would have to pay the legal costs.

Gillen, in a statement, noted that King Sweeney voted in favor of the dozens of personnel moves in December.

“It’s fascinating that the Councilwoman is all of a sudden interested in ‘protecting taxpayers’ after she voted only a few short months ago to saddle the taxpayers with an additional $2.2 million in unbudgeted salaries and permanent jobs for Anthony Santino’s political appointees,” Gillen said.

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