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Hempstead supervisor calls for hiring private investigation firm

Supervisor Laura Gillen during a Town Board meeting

Supervisor Laura Gillen during a Town Board meeting in Hempstead on Feb. 20, 2018. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen is calling on the town board to hire a private firm to investigate the town attorney’s office and other departments for personnel matters and conflicts of interest.

Gillen is proposing a March 6 vote to hire an outside firm to investigate and conduct surveillance in the town and the town attorney’s office when the town attorney’s investigators face a conflict of interest, officials said.

Gillen announced the investigation during Tuesday’s town board meeting.

“It’s best to ensure the public can take relief we’re conducting an audit that’s not an inside review, but an outside review,” Gillen said. “That’s why we’re taking outside investigators to investigate matters inside our own town attorney’s office.”

Gillen said she was not making any allegations against the town attorney, but following Town Attorney Joe Ra’s recommendations for outside investigators following a dispute in his office.

Ra recently referred a dispute involving town attorney employees to the town’s public safety investigators to avoid a conflict of interest. Ra drafted a memo with Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney to explore using an outside firm for certain investigations.

“I thought it was probably a good idea to have an outside investigatory firm to go into surveillance matters when it involves an employee who already knows everybody,” Ra said.

King Sweeney said she did not think an outside firm was necessary until all internal investigations were exhausted.

“I believe in very limited circumstances there could be a need for this, but there must be a detailed process,” King Sweeney said.

The private firm would not conduct any criminal investigations, which would instead be referred to the Nassau County district attorney’s office.

Ra said he felt like he and his office had Gillen’s full support.

“The supervisor and I are 110 percent on the same page,” Ra said.

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