Joe Ra, who served as Hempstead Town attorney for more than 20 years, stepped down from his post Thursday and assumed a new role as counsel to the Nassau County Board of Elections on Friday, officials said.
The departure of Ra, an established figure in the Nassau County Republican Party, represents the second major shake-up atop a Hempstead department since Republican Supervisor Don Clavin assumed the town's highest office in January. Former Parks Commissioner Daniel Lino retired in February and the town board appointed Frank Zangla to replace him.
Ra, 72, said on Monday he has been interested in leaving his town position for some time and was happy to assume his new $133,000-a-year post.
"It has been on my radar screen for a while," he said. "I've always wanted to work at the Board of Elections and the opportunity arose."
Ra said he was leaving Hempstead voluntarily.
Clavin on Monday expressed gratitude to Ra for his work in the town.
"We want to thank him for his years of service to the town residents and we wish him well," Clavin said.
Clavin did not say whether he has a replacement in mind, but said the town board will ultimately vote to appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
John E. Ryan, counsel to Nassau County Republican Elections Commissioner Louis Savinetti, said Ra’s portfolio at the board will include election law compliance and adapting to recent executive orders related to the coronavirus, among other responsibilities. Ryan declined to say whether the board interviewed other candidates for the position.
Ra is the third official allegedly involved in a controversial town contract extension to depart Hempstead since August.
The April 2019 extension enabled Dover Gourmet, a Freeport company, to continue operating the town-owned Malibu Beach Park although Dover at that time had not paid Hempstead rent on the property in seven months.
Dover chief executive Butch Yamali previously said Ra, Lino and former Comptroller Kevin Conroy instructed him not to pay to offset capital improvement expenses, which Ra has denied.
Ra said he is treasurer of the Nassau County Republican Committee, executive committeeman of the Franklin Square Republican Club and a longtime friend of Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Cairo. He began his career in Hempstead as a deputy town attorney in 1984, became counsel to the town board in 1989 and served as councilman from 1994 until 1999, when he was appointed town attorney.
Ra said he technically retired in 2016 to begin collecting his pension but was immediately rehired to continue serving as town attorney.