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Hempstead supervisor sues board over transfers, union protection

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen files the lawsuit in

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen files the lawsuit in Mineola just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen filed a lawsuit against the Hempstead Town Board late Wednesday seeking to undo the more than 150 appointments, transfers and raises approved by the board in December, as well as challenge a union protection to prevent layoffs, even during a fiscal crisis.

Gillen filed the lawsuit just before 5 p.m. in Nassau County Supreme Court challenging personnel moves approved by board members Dec. 12, during former Supervisor Anthony Santino’s final meeting.

“The actions taken by the board at the Dec. 12 meeting and no layoff-clause binds my hands in a fiscal emergency and it was an act of financial terrorism to do that,” Gillen said on Wednesday.

The notice of petition was filed against Santino and town board members Dorothy Goosby, Edward Ambrosino, Bruce Blakeman, Anthony D’Esposito, Erin King Sweeney and Dennis Dunne Sr. — some of whom did not vote for the actions at the time. The lawsuit also names the Town of Hempstead Civil Service Commission and its members, as well as Local 1000, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO and Civil Service Employees Association Local 880.

Town board members appeared to be blindsided by the petition on Wednesday and said they had not been notified of it beforehand. D’Esposito declined to comment before he had read the lawsuit, and King Sweeney, the board’s GOP majority leader, said she was still waiting for a legal opinion on it before commenting.

The board approved an amendment 4-3 on Dec. 12 to Local 880’s collective bargaining agreement, which says “no employee shall be terminated for reasons due to budgetary, economy, consolidation, abolition of position or curtailment of activities, but may be terminated only for misconduct or incompetence.”

Blakeman, Goosby and King Sweeney voted against the amendment.

The board also approved by a 5-2 vote — Blakeman and Goosby voted no — to transfer or promote the scores of employees to different departments or grant pay raises.

Gillen vowed in December to file a lawsuit, arguing the board’s outgoing moves handcuffed her administration.

“Former Supervisor Santino embarked on a campaign to strip Supervisor-elect Gillen of her lawful authority, to wreak havoc on the budget and the town’s finances and to protect his political allies, still employed by the town,” the lawsuit stated.

It was not immediately clear if Gillen would pay for the legal fees or if the bill would be footed by the town. Santino and Charles Sellitto, president of Local 880, could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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