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Hempstead approves hires, transfers ahead of new supervisor's term 

Laura Gillen presides over her last meeting as

Laura Gillen presides over her last meeting as Hempstead Town supervisor in Hempstead on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town Board members hired a new comptroller and approved 49 other hires, transfers, raises and promotions Tuesday that outgoing Supervisor Laura Gillen said will put the town $500,000 over budget next year.

The board voted for the 2020 personnel moves while Gillen rejected them, including incoming comptroller John Mastromarino, communications director Bruce Blower and 10 other hires and transfers of staff to the town’s Department of General Service and Parks Department.

Gillen said the moves placed the Department of General Services $380,000 over budget, including raises and transfers of four members from the tax receiver's office under Supervisor-elect Don Clavin. She said the $95,000 appointment of Alex Vassallo, an aide to former Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, was unbudgeted in the town parks department.

Mastromarino said the transfers will not have any negative affect on the budget because they will be offset by 13 resignations from Gillen’s staff effective Jan. 1. The personnel moves call for adding two new hires, he said.

“A transfer from one department to another has no affect on the budget," he said. “They’re not adding to the payroll. Donald is not going to be replacing those people.”

Clavin had said he planned to cut the supervisor’s $2.1 million budget in half. The town board reduced the 2020 supervisor’s budget to $1.8 million.

Gillen asked Clavin in a Dec. 5 letter if he was aware that the personnel moves may negatively affect the 2020 budget.

“I am not a voting member of the Town Board,” Clavin replied in a letter to Gillen. “Accordingly, I would recommend that you convey any concerns … to your colleagues on the Town Board and the town attorney.”

The board approved in a unanimous vote to move 18 part-time workers into full-time positions, an annual provision required under a 2004 court ruling.

Mastromarino was hired in his second stint as town comptroller after serving in the role from 1994 to 2010. He is a Valley Stream certified public accountant who was hired as a financial consultant to help the Republican majority town board draft budget amendments, including roughly 3.5% tax cuts in each of the 2019 and 2020 budgets.

Gillen said the hire should be made by the incoming supervisor since Mastromarino will be preparing the next budget. Gillen also criticized Mastromarino for getting a $25,000 unbudgeted raise, increasing his salary to $175,000. She said the town previously raised taxes $63 million under his tenure and padded budgets with projected retirement savings that did not materialize or include separation pay.

“I encourage the incoming supervisor to make a better choice,” Gillen said.

Representatives for Clavin and town board members did not comment further. 

It was the final meeting for Gillen at the end of her single two-year term after she was elected as the first Democratic Hempstead supervisor in more than a century. She was narrowly defeated by Clavin in a Republican sweep of the town board in the November election.

“I wish good luck to the incoming supervisor as well as the current council members in their current term,” Gillen said. “I am proud of the work we did together. I believe it was not for naught, and I hope we leave the town a better place going forward.”

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