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Hempstead proposes 192 town employee moves as Santino departs

Incoming Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s staff says the moves by Anthony Santino could cost $4 million in added spending.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino will hold his

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino will hold his final meeting in office on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Hempstead Town Board members are to vote Tuesday whether to appoint, promote, transfer or give raises to 192 town employees as Supervisor Anthony Santino holds his final meeting in office.

Among the proposed moves is transferring the Republican supervisor’s secretaries, clerks and executive assistants to other departments before Democratic Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen is sworn into office Jan. 2. The proposed moves were listed in the personnel calendar posted Friday on the town’s website, as part of the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

“Positions in the Supervisor’s Office are being vacated so that the incoming Supervisor can hire employees of her choosing,” town officials said in a statement issued by town spokesman Mike Deery. “Some long-tenured staffers with decades of institutional knowledge are being retained to ensure the smooth operation of our government, and recent retirements have created a number of vacancies that need to be filled in order to sustain the proper functioning of our township.”

The positions include both union and exempt employees, including some who have passed civil service exams. Staff in the offices of elected officials or department commissioners would be protected when transferred to other departments within the town.

The job moves could be voted on as one resolution, not individually, as part of the board’s administrative calendar.

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, a Republican, said she would challenge several of the moves during Tuesday’s meeting, and challenge a proposed amendment to the collective bargaining agreement that would prevent the new administration from imposing layoffs in a fiscal emergency for any reason other than misconduct.

The proposed amendment would also protect exempt employees who do not have to take civil service exams and whose pay is not based on a graded system.

King Sweeney said she supported raises for assistants and acknowledged that many employees are due pay increases or promotions, but she called the number of personnel moves a waste of taxpayer money that also will handcuff the town board for the incoming administration.

“There is some natural movement you’re going to have, but I still don’t see how you get 192 moves,” King Sweeney said.

Gillen said the personnel moves and the proposed labor amendment would burden her budget and make it more difficult to change staff for the new administration. Gillen said she had no immediate plans for mass layoffs.

“Any personnel decisions should be made by the new administration. By amending the collective bargaining agreement, he’s trying to destroy the finances of the Town of Hempstead,” she said of Santino. “I don’t plan to lay anyone off, but I don’t want to tie the board’s hands.”

Among the changes proposed is moving Deery, whose $205,000 annual salary makes him the town’s highest-paid active employee, to serve as the “confidential assistant to the receiver of taxes” with the same salary. Deery would resign from his communications post for the new position, according to the resolution.

The personnel resolution also includes transferring seven of Santino’s executive assistants, secretaries and clerks to other departments such as the town attorney’s office, the Department of Conservation and Waterways, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Many of the transfers overall involve no change in pay, including the $150,000 annual salary of senior policy adviser Matt Coleman to serve as a research assistant with the waterways department, and Santino’s secretary, Roseanne Scandiffio, who will continue to be paid $119,000 as secretary to the town attorney.

The resolution also calls for a $4,000 raise for Councilman Anthony D’Esposito’s assistant Matthew Paccione, who also is an Island Park village trustee. Another measure transfers a second D’Esposito assistant, Evelyn Toscano, to the waterways department, where she will keep her $95,416 annual salary. D’Esposito’s brother, Timothy, is to be promoted to navigational supervisor in the Conservation and Waterways Department, and receive a $5,000 raise.

Raises of as much as $5,000 are also proposed for five assistants of the board’s only Democratic council member, Dorothy Goosby, who has frequently voted with Santino.

The personnel moves come after the town in October passed a $418.6 million 2018 budget that includes a 1.9 percent tax levy increase.

Gillen’s campaign representatives said their calculations of the personnel moves and raises show they would require $4 million in new spending.

In 2016, the town had 2,057 full-time and 2,104 part-time workers.

Hempstead’s proposed moves aren’t unique.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who did not seek re-election, in July moved more than 40 politically appointed employees into competitive union positions that will protect them from being fired. Democratic County Executive-elect Laura Curran has asked Mangano to rescind the appointments.

In late 2009, outgoing Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi made about 40 nominations to various boards and commissions before Mangano took office.

With Stefanie Dazio

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