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Hempstead Town proposes increased financial transparency

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday discussed proposals

The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday discussed proposals for bonding, special elections, and a law against public urination and defecation. Credit: Uli Seit

The Hempstead Town Board scheduled a public hearing on a proposal to increase transparency by disclosing all contracts over $10,000 and financial audits related to town departments.

The proposal has bipartisan support from Supervisor Laura Gillen and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, both Democrats, and Republican Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney.

The resolution would require all town contracts worth more than $10,000 to be posted on the town website as well as all forensic and performance audits related to the town’s agencies and operations.

The town would also be required to post all budget materials online, along with job specifications and documents related to the town’s highway capital plan and roadway surveys.

Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito asked that the resolution identify conflicts of interest, such as an insurance consulting contract recently awarded to Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, which was approved unanimously by the board on May 8. The company’s senior vice president is Phil Westerman, the brother of Gillen’s transition team chairman and Gillen’s former law partner John Westerman.

Gillen said she was not on the panel that picked the contract. The $20,000 contract was selected among four bids ranging from $37,000 to $18,000. Town officials said bids are scored by their qualifications and are not required to be the lowest bid to be selected.

“The suggestion that members of this town board should know the whereabouts of every sibling of every current or former co-worker is absurd,” Gillen said in a statement.

The public hearing is set for June 5.

Town board members on June 5 will also have a public hearing to amend the disorderly conduct code to ban public urination and defecation.

In other business, the board:

  • Voted for a second time against scheduling a public hearing on requiring special elections to fill board vacancies rather than appointments. It was shelved by a 4-2 vote.
  • Approved $82 million in bonds as part of a settlement with Nassau County to refund erroneous garbage tax assessments applied to utility companies. The town settled with the county in 2016 to cover the costs owed to Verizon and other utilities in exchange for 70 percent of the costs refunded to the town over the next 10 years. About half of the costs are interest. Gillen said interest from the bonds may not be refundable and could impact future town infrastructure projects.
  • Unanimously appointed union leader Jack Majkut to the town’s IDA.

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