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Hempstead pol calls on town to review public notices after error

Hempstead Town councilmembers Erin King Sweeney and Bruce

Hempstead Town councilmembers Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Two Hempstead Town Board members on Thursday called for a special meeting of the town board to revive a public hearing on their legislation that would restrict taxpayer-funded mass mailings, after a hearing earlier this week was adjourned due to an error in its public notice.

In a memo to town officials, council members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman requested the special meeting be held on Nov. 2. Town spokesman Mike Deery could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday night.

Town officials first blamed Tuesday’s adjournment of the mass mailing hearing on the timing of its public notice, but then said instead that the notice lacked the required explanatory statement — which King Sweeney’s office pointed out also was missing in the notice for Santino’s ethics law.

Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, who has been embroiled in a feud with the duo for months over ethics reform, then called for a revote on his ethics law, which the town board passed last month, because of the error.

Also on Thursday, King Sweeney called on Town Attorney Joe Ra to review nearly two years of public notices for similar errors. Deery said Thursday afternoon that Ra was reviewing that request, but King Sweeney said in a statement that evening that deputy town attorneys had told her staff they would begin an investigation on Friday.

“We will give their office until the end of the day Monday to review the matter and let us know their findings,” she said.

A Newsday review all of the public notices listed on the town’s website since January 2016 found at least four notices, including the one for the ethics reform legislation, in which an explanatory statement could not be found. They concerned legislation on disorderly conduct, drones and public parking fields, and all were passed into law by the town board.

Deery said he would not have any comment on Newsday’s findings until Ra has the opportunity to review them.

John Farrell, vice chairman of the Nassau County Bar Association’s municipal law committee, said explanatory statements are required so the public understands the purpose of the legislation ahead of a hearing.

The town could be sued over the omissions, Farrell said, adding a judge could declare the town’s laws to be invalid “for simply not complying with their own notice requirements.”

Laura Gillen, Democratic candidate for supervisor, said Thursday she is “exploring legal options to seek redress on behalf of the taxpayers in the Town of Hempstead.”

King Sweeney also criticized Ra, saying his office should have reviewed the public notice for the mass mailer legislation for any legal issues, as required by a 2000 town board resolution.

Deery said Ra did not have time to review King Sweeney’s notice before it had to be published, but did not notice any defects originally.

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