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Hempstead Town employs entire East Rockaway Village Board

Exterior of East Rockaway's Village Hall, Jan. 8,

Exterior of East Rockaway's Village Hall, Jan. 8, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Town of Hempstead employs more elected village officials from East Rockaway, the home of Supervisor Anthony Santino, than from any other village in the town, a Newsday analysis of payroll records shows.

All four East Rockaway village trustees and several of their family members are on the town’s payroll in full-time and part-time jobs with salaries or stipends.

Two Island Park elected village officials work for Hempstead Town, records show. A handful of other villages have one elected official who is paid by the town. Nearly all are registered Republicans, as are most members of the town board.

The East Rockaway trustees’ jobs in Hempstead Town range from a $20 per hour, part-time laborer position in the highway department to an executive assistant to the supervisor, with a $105,679 salary.

“I don’t think it’s uncommon at all for folks who are involved at one level of government to be involved in their village governments,” Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said. Several of the East Rockaway hires, he noted, predate Santino’s tenure as supervisor.

Santino was a village trustee in East Rockaway for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s. He was first elected to the Hempstead Town Board in 1993 and was a councilman until he became supervisor in 2015. He also is the East Rockaway Republican Club’s leader.

“Hiring decisions should be based on merit and not political affiliation or personal relationships,” Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a nonpartisan government accountability nonprofit, said in a statement. “Political patronage undermines the taxpayers’ expectation of fairness and government competence as well as breeds corruption.”

Last month, the town board appointed Richard Bilello, 48, the president of the East Rockaway Republican Club and a village trustee, to a $200-per-session position on the town’s Public Employment Relations Board. The board meets as needed to mediate conflicts between the town employees’ union and town officials. The employment relations board hasn’t met in the past two years.

East Rockaway Trustee Gordon Fox was hired as a town clerical aide at $45 per hour in June — three days after his son Thomas, 29, resigned from his position as a town maintenance mechanic, town records show.

Gordon Fox, 66, was promoted in November to a $60-an-hour job as a part-time director of finance in the town comptroller’s office, records show. He does not receive benefits or health insurance, and replaced two full-time employees, which town officials said represents $279,700 in savings.

“Since becoming Town Supervisor, I have hired a single East Rockaway Village Board member, and he has an exemplary record in the private sector,” Santino said in a statement, referring to Fox. Santino does not consider Bilello to be on the town payroll because his is a stipend position and not salaried. Stipends are paid with town money.

“He [Fox] is doing a job formerly performed by two employees, consequently saving taxpayers almost $300,000. I wish I could make 10 more appointments like this one,” Santino said.

East Rockaway trustee Theresa Gaffney, 37, who serves as the village deputy mayor, was hired by the town as a part-time clerical aide in 2010, records show. She was promoted to a full-time assistant to the town board in 2013. In September, she became one of Santino’s executive assistants.

Town officials said her $105,679 salary is the lowest of Santino’s three executive assistants, according to 2016 payroll data.

Her nephew, Patrick Gaffney, 24, of Westbury, was hired a year ago as a cleaner in the Department of General Services. His salary is $39,858.

East Rockaway village trustee Steven Fried, 62, began working full time for Hempstead Town in 1973 and retired in February 2014. Less than four months later, he was hired back as a part-time laborer in the highway department, and works for the town for $20 an hour, payroll records show.

His wife, Charlene, 60, has worked part time as a town clerical aide since 2013. She is paid $22 an hour in the sanitation department, records show.

The four East Rockaway trustees are each paid $10,000 annually by the village, according to Clerk Patricia Renner. They and their family members have donated nearly $15,000 to Santino’s supervisor campaigns, state campaign finance records show.

None of the trustees, nor the East Rockaway mayor, could be reached for comment.

All four East Rockaway village trustees work for the Town of Hempstead in a part-time or full-time capacity.

--Theresa Gaffney: executive assistant to Supervisor Anthony Santino, $105,679 salary

--Gordon Fox: director of finance, $60-per-hour

--Steven Fried: laborer, $20-per-hour

--Richard Bilello: member of the Public Employment Relations Board, $200-per-session

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