A Democrat may be the supervisor of Hempstead for the first time in a century, but Tuesday’s town board agenda is a disturbing reminder that the Republican political machine remains very much in power.
Since Laura Gillen took office earlier this year, council members have taken every step to thwart her efforts to clean out the patronage and waste. But in the quiet of summer, their attempts to undercut her authority are becoming even more brazen.
Last week, Gillen used a procedural loophole to stop an outrageous resolution that would award retroactive pay raises to 86 staffers — including 15 employees who left their jobs, two of whom were fired. Council member Erin King Sweeney undercut Gillen by conducting negotiations with Charlie Sellitto, head of the town’s Civil Service Employees Association unit, that would give $800,000 worth of raises to management appointees going back to 2017 and ahead to 2021. Most of those high-level employees are Republicans and affiliated with the party apparatus.
Sweeney’s response that Gillen should have consulted with her before refusing to put it on the calendar is laughable. Sellitto wondered what the fuss was about what he called a mere cost-of-living raise. But using that money for the politically connected doesn’t leave much for the rank and file, especially creating full-time jobs for part-timers. Michael Deery, the communications director for the receiver of taxes, makes $205,000 annually. Under the deal, he would be earning $222,000 by 2021. The town supervisor only makes $160,000.
Another item on the agenda is disguised as procedural, but should be just as insulting to town residents. This resolution would deny any measure from being considered by the board if it had been previously tabled. That could change only if a majority of members vote to “untable” it.
Here’s the context. Gillen is trying to make a critical change that would loosen the grip of the GOP machine on the town. Her democratic idea of having a special election rather than an appointment when a council vacancy occurs is kryptonite to the Republicans. It would stop the game of musical chairs for GOP insiders, where everyone finds a seat, one that pays $71,000 for a part-time job. Tuesday is the third time Gillen will try to get the council to have an up-or-down vote on the special-election measure.
Every GOP member of the current five-person majority was initially appointed by a vote of fellow GOP members. That includes King Sweeney, Edward Ambrosino, who is serving despite facing a federal indictment for tax evasion and wire fraud, Bruce Blakeman, Anthony D’Esposito and Dennis Dunne, a county legislator for 22 years. Only Democrats Dorothy Goosby and Gillen had to face voters to win their first seats.
One last agenda item is a proposal, premature at best, to rename the popular MacLaren Stadium and fields in Levittown as the Ambassador Joseph N. Mondello Athletic Complex. Mondello, the former GOP leader who was confirmed just June 28, is now serving as ambassador to Trinadad and Tobago. After a century of wringing patronage from taxpayers, the Hempstead GOP wants to boast that one of its own has ascended to the highest form of patronage in the world.