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Long IslandNassau

Hempstead ex-clerk goes to parks department job, officials say

Nasrin Ahmad is shown at Nassau County GOP

Nasrin Ahmad is shown at Nassau County GOP headquarters in Westbury on June 2, 2017. Credit: James Escher

Former Hempstead Town Clerk Nasrin Ahmad moved Tuesday to her third town job in as many weeks after complaints from the Department of Occupational Resources that it couldn’t handle the expense of adding her to the staff.

Ahmad started work Tuesday as the $129,500-per-year deputy commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation even though the town board has not approved the new job, town spokeswoman Susie Trenkle-Pokalsky said. Board members are to consider the move at their Jan. 9 meeting.

After her re-election bid failed, Ahmad was to become the deputy commissioner of the town’s Department of Occupational Resources, with the same $129,500 annual salary, after the town board, under then-Supervisor Anthony Santino, approved it and 191 other personnel moves last month. The cash-strapped department, which operates the town’s career center and helps job-seeking residents, was supposed to be transferring employees to other departments by the end of 2017 to address reductions in federal funding. The department had 24 employees in 2016, according to payroll records.

“Who knows what Tony Santino was thinking?” Supervisor Laura Gillen, who was sworn in on Monday, said in a statement. “But it seems when you make 192 personnel moves, things can get confusing.”

Ahmad, a Republican, was appointed town clerk in September 2013 and elected to a full two-year term two months later. She lost her bid for re-election on Nov. 7 to Democrat Sylvia Cabana, who was also sworn in on Monday.

Ahmad and Santino could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Ahmad’s new parks department position comes after three memos filed in December by Gregory Becker, then-acting commissioner of the Department of Occupational Resources, known as DOOR. In one memo, Becker wrote to William Sammon, the town’s director of human resources — and copied Gillen’s transition team, the town comptroller, Santino’s deputy chief of staff and others — that the town had been planning since October to reduce the department’s staff to cut spending. The memos were released to Newsday last week upon request.

On Nov. 8 — the day after Santino, a Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democratic challenger Gillen — Becker’s office was informed that “this agreed upon action was placed on hold . . . with no further information provided,” Becker wrote, noting that the personnel transfers had not taken place. He did not write who informed his office that the transfers were on hold.

On Dec. 11, Becker wrote a memo detailing a conversation with Sammon earlier that day. Sammon had called Becker to inform him that Ahmad would be appointed to the vacant deputy position during the Dec. 12 town board meeting, Becker wrote.

“I responded with serious concern and reminded him of DOOR’s severe budget issues which Mr. Sammon has been well aware of and that adding personnel was going in the opposite direction to balancing DOOR’s budget,” Becker wrote.

The Santino-led town board voted 5-2 the next day to grant appointments, promotions, transfers and raises to 192 employees in a move Gillen and other critics have called an attempt to protect political appointments. Ahmad’s new job in the Department of Occupational Resources was included in the vote, as well as Becker’s promotion from the department’s deputy commissioner — his memos show he was considered the acting commissioner — to commissioner at an unchanged $145,159 salary.

Becker subsequently wrote to Sammon and copied Gillen’s transition team, the town comptroller, Santino’s deputy chief of staff and others seeking “direction regarding the appointment and assignment of new staff” to the department. The new position would “dramatically increase” the department’s budget gap and could force it to exceed federal limits on administrative costs, he wrote on Dec. 13.

He suggested that the town finalize the transfers of staff out of his office, cover the cost of any new employees, provide additional funding to cover the budget deficit and permanently place all of the department’s staff members on the town’s payroll.

Cabana on Tuesday started her first official day as town clerk without supplies and furniture.

“Day One, Town Clerk Cabana showed up at 8 a.m. to start her public service for the residents of the Town of Hempstead but found an office that was stripped of any appropriate furniture and also lacking computers, phones and town vehicles, leaving Clerk Cabana at a disadvantage,” Deputy Town Clerk Gaspare Tumminello said in a statement. “However, she managed to perform her town duties despite the setback.”

Some of the items were returned by the end of the day Tuesday although others — including the vehicles — remained missing, he said, noting that the office did not know who had moved the items. The town’s Department of Public Safety is investigating.