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Hempstead council members propose change to online policy

Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin criticizes the

Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin criticizes the town for temporarily taking down one of his news releases from the town website. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Three Hempstead Town Board members are proposing a bill to give elected officials freedom to post news and media releases on the town’s website and social media without review from the communications office.

Republican Councilmembers Anthony D’Esposito and Erin King Sweeney are sponsoring the bill with Democratic Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby following a dispute between the GOP Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin and Democratic Supervisor Laura Gillen.

Clavin held a news conference with councilmembers Thursday pointing to a news release he submitted to the town about county assessment mailers that was posted to the website June 11, but was removed three days later. The release was restored to the website the next day on June 15.

Clavin’s news release declared “victory” on convincing Nassau County to issue notification of assessment changes by mail rather than only online. Clavin said he was told it was removed because it appeared to be politically based and not related to town government.

“It’s unfortunate it’s come to this that we have to talk about free speech,” Clavin said. “We’ve come together and we’re putting a line in the sand to introduce legislation to protect the freedom of speech.”

Town officials said elected officials have access to social media, and news releases are posted after being reviewed by the town’s communications office for review.

“The Receiver should put as much effort into managing his budget as he does seeking ridiculous press," said a statement from the town's communications office. It went on to say that Clavin's true interests are "using your tax dollars for party patronage and self-promotion.”

Clavin said he has never had trouble posting to the website with prior administrations. Gillen is the first Democrat elected supervisor in more than 100 years. He has long been considered a challenger for Gillen next year, something he would neither confirm nor deny Thursday.

The resolution will be presented at an upcoming town board meeting. The  board next meets July 3 at Hempstead Town Hall.

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