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Gillen ‘perplexed’ by staff transfers to tax receiver’s office

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, seen here

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, seen here on Jan. 23, 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said she is “perplexed” by the transfers last month of three members of the town’s communications office to the tax receiver’s office.

“Almost our entire” communications office was moved to Tax Receiver Donald Clavin’s office during former Supervisor Anthony Santino’s last meeting on Dec. 12, Gillen said during a Jan. 9 town board meeting. She noted that the transfers made it difficult for the remaining employees to address issues with the town’s website. Gillen said her staff would look into those problems.

Clavin, rumored to be the GOP’s challenger to Gillen when her term is up in two years, has hosted eight news conferences since Dec. 12. The uptick occurred after former town spokesman Mike Deery was transferred to Clavin’s office amid 192 personnel moves during Santino’s final meeting as the head of the town board.

“I love being the receiver of taxes and I’m focused on my job,” Clavin said Monday.

Clavin said he held just a handful of news conferences in 2017 before mid-December, though he didn’t have an exact figure.

“I didn’t participate in many press conferences in the most recent past administration,” he said, referring to Santino’s tenure. “In prior administrations, I participated in dozens.”

Deery and three other town employees — Casey Sammon, Michael Caputo and Cheryl Petri — almost immediately were thrown into chaos in the tax receiver’s office. President Donald Trump signed the new federal tax code and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order to allow property owners to prepay their 2018 taxes the week after the quartet began their new jobs.

Clavin’s office was flooded with thousands of residents seeking to prepay their taxes during what is typically a slow holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Clavin said his office needed to get the word out to property owners in the town about prepayments and the new staff members aided in that. “It was our public duty to get out there and inform them,” he said.

Six of the eight recent news conferences — including one on New Year’s Eve where Clavin handed out cups of coffee at his own expense to residents waiting on line at his office while cameras rolled — have been related to the tax prepayments. Of the remaining two news conferences, one was with Councilman Anthony D’Esposito about the Long Island Power Authority and the other was about the town’s new e-billing program. Clavin’s office also sent out a news release Monday about the economic impact of the Islanders playing at the Nassau Coliseum next year.