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Hempstead pol: No answers from town on public notice errors

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, seen here

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, seen here on April 4, 2017, has proposed legislation that targets officials sending out mass mailers before elections. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney said Monday that she has not yet received answers from town officials about potential errors in the town’s public notices or when a special meeting about her mass mailers legislation will be held.

King Sweeney requested the special meeting after Councilman Anthony D’Esposito made a motion at last Tuesday’s town board meeting to adjourn a hearing on her legislation, which would restrict elected officials sending out mass mailers ahead of elections.

The adjournment set off a firestorm in what was already a monthslong spat between King Sweeney and Supervisor Anthony Santino, both of whom are Republicans.

Town officials originally said the hearing had to be adjourned because the public notice was not published early enough. They then changed their reasoning and said that while the time frame was acceptable, the public notice lacked the required explanatory statement describing what the hearing was about.

A Newsday review of all of the public notices listed on the town’s website since January 2016 found at least four notices in which an explanatory statement could not be found. Among them was Santino’s highly touted ethics reform legislation that was voted into law after a contentious, hourslong public hearing last month.

King Sweeney called Thursday for the town attorney to investigate all public notices published during Santino’s tenure as supervisor. She and Blakeman also on Thursday requested a special meeting be held Nov. 2 to revive the mass mailers public hearing.

On Monday evening, King Sweeney said despite silence from town officials, she would continue her efforts.

“I’m going to keep pushing hard to get answers to legitimate questions,” she said. “I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall.”

Town spokesman Mike Deery said last week that Santino would call for a revote on the ethics reform legislation. On Monday, he said the special meeting and potential revotes on legislation are under review by the town attorney’s office.

Laura Gillen, Democratic candidate for supervisor, echoed the duo’s call for a special meeting.

“Voters have every right to know how their hard-earned money is being spent, and how their representatives in government feel on this important issue, before Election Day,” she said in a statement.

Earlier on Monday, King Sweeney had asked the town comptroller to provide an accounting of how much taxpayer money was spent to advertise the mass mailers hearing.

“The Councilwoman would like to know exactly what amount of taxpayer money was used to advertise such hearing, [at which] the public waited hours to speak, and were disenfranchised when the hearing was terminated without any explanation given at the time,” Alex Vassallo, King Sweeney’s executive assistant, wrote in Monday’s request.

Acting Deputy Comptroller Michael Capobianco responded to King Sweeney’s office and said it cost $19.35 to advertise the public hearing in a local newspaper. The newspaper has not yet billed the town, he said.

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