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Huntington looks to drop lawsuit against highway chief

The Town of Huntington has taken steps to drop a lawsuit seeking to stop its highway superintendent from ignoring the town's hiring freeze.

The town sent documents asking Superintendent William Naughton to agree to discontinue the lawsuit, according to his lawyer, Thomas Levin. But Naughton - who added eight workers to his staff in December and January - declined.

"They cannot drop the lawsuit without my client's consent," said Levin of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein in Garden City. "We have advised them we are not going to sign it. The lawsuit goes on."

The move to discontinue the lawsuit came because Naughton has since dropped efforts to add the workers to his department's payroll, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 3 in State Supreme Court. A letter from the highway department dated Feb. 5 informed the eight their employment had been terminated, according to town officials, and a Feb. 8 letter signed by Naughton explained that the jobs had not been approved by the board.

Naughton "had no choice" other than to send the letters, Levin said. "When the court validates his right to hire them, he's going to hire them again."

Levin said the town's lawsuit asks the court to decide the extent of Naughton's authority.

The lawsuit alleges that the eight workers were informed when they went to the town personnel office to fill out paperwork that their hirings had not been approved and there were no such jobs. Naughton later attempted to process vouchers to pay the workers as independent contractors.

The lawsuit also seeks to prevent Naughton from filling vacancies or hire independent contractors without board approval.

Carter said town officials still plan to file a motion to discontinue the suit.

Local 342, the Long Island Public Services Employee union, filed grievances with the town to pay the workers for time worked.

Carter said the issue has not yet been addressed, "but certainly we wouldn't want to punish anyone who has worked in good faith."

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