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Hempstead alerts homeowners to Sandy damage assessments

The town board will vote on waiving fees to access damage records after 13,000 property owners were notified recently of reports done after the storm.

Sandy debris in Oceanside in 2012.

Sandy debris in Oceanside in 2012. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The Hempstead Town Board is to vote Tuesday on waiving building department fees  for those seeking access to records on property damage caused by superstorm Sandy, two weeks after Supervisor Laura Gillen sent a letter to 13,000 homeowners regarding "systemic problems" with the town's record-keeping on Sandy damage.

At issue are the "Preliminary Damage Assessments" of those 13,000 homes  conducted by town building inspectors shortly after the 2012 storm, Gillen wrote in the March 18 correspondence. The town did not notify residents of the assessments at the time, even though owners of significantly damaged homes may have been required to carry out costly repairs to comply with federal flood mitigation standards.

"It’s shocking that homeowners were never told about damage assessments that were performed in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and that there are still homeowners that may have to deal with this problem," Gillen, who assumed office last year, said in a statement.

To address this and other issues in the building department, Gillen, a Democrat, called in January for a departmental audit, but in February the Republican-controlled town board tabled a resolution  to hire a proposed auditor, as the company was not the lowest bidder.

Gillen spokesman Mike Fricchione said Monday the town then had to put out a new request for proposals for an auditor, as the previous proposals received were valid only for six months.

Request for legal fees

The town board is also to vote on Tuesday on a pair of resolutions put forth by Gillen to secure town funding for her legal fees stemming from her recent lawsuit against the town board.

Gillen sued the board last April over layoff protections for union workers and numerous personnel moves approved by the town board shortly before she took office. A judge ruled last month that the no-layoff clause be voided, but that the personnel transfers were legal.

The board initially approved town funding for Gillen's fees, but then revoked it in August 2018, as the suit was "not undertaken in the public interest," a town board resolution from the time reads.

Gillen is also seeking $5,000 in town funding for a settlement with Thomas Williams, her prior attorney in the suit, who said Gillen had not paid him $8,000 in legal fees.

The town is funding the legal defense of the town board and of former Supervisor Anthony Santino, who was also named as a respondent in the suit, board spokeswoman Susie Trenkle-Pokalsky said.

Fricchione and Trenkle-Pokalsky were unable to say Monday how much the attorneys representing Gillen, the board and Santino in the suit are owed.

Trenkle-Pokalsky also said she could not say whether the town board  would appeal the ruling in the suit.

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