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Incoming Hempstead supervisor asks for halt to raises, contracts

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino at a town

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino at a town board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The Hempstead Town Board voted Tuesday to approve 18 personnel matters and entered into at least nine contracts, a day after Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen wrote asking Supervisor Anthony Santino, whom she defeated last week at the polls, to refrain from doing so.

In her letter, dated Monday and marked “hand-delivered,” Gillen thanked Santino for his service to the town.

“We can guarantee an efficient transition, if we work together,” she wrote. “To that end, I respectfully ask that you refrain from appointing, hiring/transferring employees, entering into contracts, or making material decisions affecting Hempstead Town, its operations/budget, including, but not limited to, the appointment of an inspector general.”

Santino, a Republican, promised during Tuesday’s town board meeting to ensure a smooth transition for Gillen, who will become the town’s first Democratic supervisor in more than 100 years when she takes office Jan. 2. He directed the town attorney to make an unspecified amount of funds available for Gillen to hire staff before she’s sworn in.

Town spokesman Mike Deery said Santino received the letter Monday, but the supervisor and the board plan to continue to hire employees and approve contracts for the remainder of his term.

“The supervisor intends to continue to carry out responsibilities as town supervisor, which could include any action that may come before the Town Board,” Deery said.

According to a copy of the town board’s agenda posted online, the board approved 18 resolutions that pertain to town employees, including the appointment of a new member to the town’s Civil Service Commission, a raise for Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney’s executive assistant and the appointment of former supervisor Kate Murray’s brother to a new position in the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The agenda also included resolutions to amend, renew, approve or award nine contracts. The board also voted to accept multiple other bids and proposals and authorized more payments and agreements.

King Sweeney abstained from voting on seven of the nine contracts as part of her ongoing protest of the expenditure of town money while the town lacks an inspector general. The rest of the board passed the contracts unanimously.

The board also voted Tuesday to schedule a public hearing on legislation that would appoint an inspector general for Dec. 12.

Gillen said Wednesday in an interview that she was “a little bit disappointed” in the town board’s moves, but remains “optimistic” that she can work with Santino and Town Attorney Joe Ra for a successful transition. Gillen said Ra had reached out to her after the meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Gillen said she sent the letter Monday so Santino could take her thoughts into consideration and change the agenda — which was first posted online Thursday — in time.

“I’m respectful of his tenure as supervisor, but because I am taking over the helm of the Town of Hempstead, I think it’s appropriate that any changes going forward should have my involvement, and not his,” she said.

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