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Erin King Sweeney, Laura Gillen split over Hempstead contracts bill

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, seen here on Feb.

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, seen here on Feb. 20. Credit: .

It came as a surprise to some Hempstead Town watchers when Republican Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney voted with her colleagues Tuesday to table a proposal from Democratic Supervisor Laura Gillen to increase oversight in the selection and award of lucrative town contracts.

King Sweeney, of Wantagh, had abstained consistently from voting on town contracts for most of last year while Republican Anthony Santino was town supervisor. She argued that town contracts needed more oversight and proposed ethics reforms that included the hiring of an inspector general to review the proposed deals.

Gillen, who defeated Santino in November, had submitted a bill that would require the town to issue requests for proposals for all professional services and insurance coverages that exceeded $20,000.

Town officials would be required to advertise for the required service. An ad hoc committee of three employees then would review and score each proposal and town officials could interview firms before making a recommendation to the town board.

“A fair and open process discourages favoritism, and encourages additional vendors to compete for our business,” Gillen said in an email. “Taxpayers deserve the best services at the most cost-effective price.”

But Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat who sides with the board’s Republican majority on most issues, made a motion Tuesday that the vote on Gillen’s legislation be “postponed indefinitely.” The town board agreed.

King Sweeney, the GOP majority leader, said the item was pulled at the last minute because of concerns about how the language would affect existing projects. She added in an email that the board also wanted to hear from town commissioners about how best to implement the law.

King Sweeney said she still supports the legislation and hopes to pass a revised bill at the next town board meeting.

“I’m committed to passing a version close to that and maintaining the spirit of that legislation,” King Sweeney said. “I support the concept and am sure we can do a better version.”

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