A councilwoman has proposed rehiring Thomas Tiernan as highway superintendent for...

A councilwoman has proposed rehiring Thomas Tiernan as highway superintendent for the Town of North Hempstead. Credit: Ed Betz

North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena is urging her Democratic colleagues to withdraw plans to rehire a former highway superintendent who resigned in 2016 amid an internal overtime investigation prompted by Newsday reports.

At a news conference on Monday, DeSena announced that Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, a Democrat, had submitted a resolution for the board to reappoint Thomas Tiernan as highway superintendent at its upcoming May 19 board meeting. If hired, the draft resolution stated that Tiernan’s term would end on Dec. 31, 2023, but no other details, including pay, were available.

“I cannot stand quietly as the majority council members work to welcome back an individual, involved in scandal, greed and questionable ethics," DeSena said.

A Newsday investigation in March 2016 found that Tiernan was the only top highway official on Long Island to get overtime at the time. Tiernan collected more than $134,000 in overtime from 2011 to 2016 and became the town's highest-paid employee.

Results of the town’s internal investigation were not immediately available, but DeSena pointed to another 2015 external investigation involving Tiernan, conducted by the town attorney’s office, following “complaints from a vendor of verbal abuse” and accusations of manipulating who received town contracts.

“As a result of the investigation, credible evidence was found that Mr. Tiernan did indeed abuse town contractors,” DeSena said.

Tiernan, who could not be reached for comment Monday, was hired by the town in 1980 and became highway superintendent in 2000. In 2011, the town board voted to reclassify Tiernan's position, making him eligible for overtime. The decision was amended in 2018, about two years after his departure, when the board voted to remove the position from the Civil Service Employees Association and reestablish it as an unclassified Civil Service title.

In a statement, Lurvey, a Democrat, praised Tiernan’s work during his time in the town.

“Mr. Tiernan did a phenomenal job as Town Highway Superintendent, possessing nearly four decades of experience with the Town,” Lurvey said. “He is someone who knows North Hempstead and cares deeply about our residents.”

She said she offered “all members of the board the opportunity to discuss Mr. Tiernan's hiring” but “instead of communicating with us directly, the supervisor is again playing the victim in the press."

After Tiernan’s departure, the town rehired its former building commissioner, Kevin Cronin to serve as acting superintendent. He and Joe Geraci, who at the time was deputy commissioner of the Public Works Department, had taken turns serving as interim superintendent.

Richard Baker took over in 2019 but resigned four months after taking the job. Cronin served in the interim again, before current acting Highway Superintendent Harry Weed joined the town in April 2021.

A resolution was proposed in January to make Weed's position permanent but was tabled indefinitely.

Tiernan, while superintendent, supervised his brother John in the highway department, who later resigned. Tiernan's son, Thomas II, and wife, Jill Guiney, are also employees of the town, according to officials. 


 

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