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Hempstead official: Errors mean legislation must be rewritten

The Hempstead Town attorney has found two problems with a resolution concerning legislation to restrict mass mailers, and said the legislation and its public notice must be rewritten.

The problems, detailed in a memo Tuesday from Town Attorney Joe Ra to the legislation’s authors, council members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman, come nearly a month after they submitted the resolution to the town attorney for review.

Ra said the original legislation is “defective” because it tries to add a new section to the town code as well as amend part of it.

There must be two separate resolutions, he wrote, adding that his office is preparing the revisions as well as a new public notice for the legislation.

The memo is the latest in a back-and-forth between King Sweeney’s office and the town attorney that has roots in the councilmember’s monthslong feud with Supervisor Anthony Santino, a fellow Republican.

On Wednesday, King Sweeney said her office submitted the resolution to the town attorney’s office on Sept. 29, but only now have the errors been spotted.

“There was never any attempt by him or anyone else to help us correct it,” said King Sweeney, who posted the memo on her Facebook page Tuesday night. “You’ve had just about a month to help us fix it.”

King Sweeney said that if the resolution was problematic, she didn’t understand why Ra’s office allowed the town board to vote on Oct. 3 to schedule a public hearing for Oct. 17.

Previously, Ra had said his office hadn’t reviewed the public hearing notice for any errors and found the problems only after the public hearing was adjourned.

On Wednesday, town spokesman Mike Deery said Ra did not have time to review the legislation between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3.

“I think he’s taking a look at the law because now he has the time to,” Deery said.

Last week, when the town board was to hold the public hearing on the legislation, which would restrict taxpayer-funded mass mailers ahead of elections, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito made a motion to adjourn without taking any public comments.

At first, Ra and Deery said D’Esposito’s motion was made because the hearing’s public notice had not been published within the required time frame. Then they said the time frame wasn’t in error, but that the notice lacked a mandatory explanatory statement — which was also missing in a public notice for Santino’s ethics reform legislation.

The town board will revote on the ethics legislation over the public notice issue, Deery said.

King Sweeney has called for an investigation of the public notices dating back to January 2016, the beginning of Santino’s tenure as supervisor. Deery on Wednesday did not have any further information about whether the town was investigating laws already passed that also lacked explanatory statements in their public notices.

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