The Hempstead Town Board voted 5-2 Tuesday to indefinitely postpone legislation on special elections to fill vacancies in elected town offices as members of the audience opposed the decision. "It's a disgraceful day in the Town of Hempstead," Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said, joining the criticism. Credit: Newsday / Jesse Coburn

The Hempstead Town Board voted 5-2 Tuesday in an hourslong meeting to indefinitely postpone legislation on special elections to fill vacancies in elected town offices as members of the audience shouted in opposition to the decision.

The proposed legislation called for the board to schedule a public hearing on the issue for Sept. 4. If it passed after the public hearing, the town would hold a public referendum on filling vacancies for town board members, the town clerk and the tax receiver through special elections instead of by appointments.

Every Republican town board member was initially appointed to his or her seat before running in subsequent elections. Supervisor Laura Gillen and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, both Democrats, were elected.

The board also postponed voting on proposals to rename a Levittown athletic complex for former town Supervisor Joseph Mondello, a whistleblower protection act and a foreclosure registry. Residents shouted out from the audience that they should be allowed to speak before the vote postponing the issues. Public comment was not taken.

“It’s a disgraceful day in the Town of Hempstead,” Gillen said.

The board later voted 6-1 to change how it tables items despite Gillen’s opposition. Currently, if a proposed law is indefinitely postponed like the special election legislation was, it cannot be brought up for a vote again until a majority of board members choose to do so.

“There’s never been an issue until now,” Gillen said. “Tabling was never intended to bury an item forever.”

The board also voted 6-1 to repeal its controversial free-air law after a symbolic, unenforceable vote last month in the face of a lawsuit from a group of service station owners. Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said he wasn’t comfortable with the wording of the repeal and voted against it.

The law had required service stations to provide free air to drivers inflating tires. A lawsuit challenging the law will now be settled, officials said. Gillen called Hempstead’s legal fees “obscene” and said she hoped to save both parties money by settling the lawsuit.

Separately, the board voted 4-3 to rescind its decision to fund Gillen’s legal bills in her lawsuit against the town challenging a union no-layoff clause and nearly 200 personnel moves.  Gillen, councilman Bruce  Blakeman and Goosby voted against rescinding coverage of the supervisor’s legal fees.

Matthew Didora, Gillen’s attorney, called the legislation “just another example of trying to silence the supervisor.”

Ronald Rosenberg, an attorney for the town board in Gillen’s lawsuit, said the town could open itself up to a taxpayer lawsuit over wasteful spending if it pays for both sides' legal fees.

“The town has no authority and should not fund a lawsuit against itself,” he said.

The board also voted unanimously Tuesday on $14.7 million in bonds for capital projects, and extended a moratorium passed in November 2016 on building homes on the Woodmere Club golf course while the town mulls creating a special golf course zoning district or looks into the feasibility of acquiring the golf course to limit development.

The owners of the Woodmere Club have sued the town, alleging that the board is stymying its plans to close the golf course by 2022 and build homes on the property.

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