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How Hempstead is handling a $133 million question

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin recently relinquished responsibility

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin recently relinquished responsibility for Hempstead's housing choice voucher program, giving federal, state and local officials the ability to make sure the program is transferred into appropriate hands. Credit: Barry Sloan

Daily Point

Report called 'propaganda'

An attorney for Akbar Rogers has told The Point that he would oppose the public release of a use-of-force report by an expert hired by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas — the document she cited in her decision not to prosecute Freeport village police on brutality charges.

Bystander video showed as many as eight police officers repeatedly punched and kicked Rogers as he was pinned to the ground during the arrest in December.

But Rogers’ attorney, Randy Zelin, told The Point Monday that the report was “self-serving, biased and fundamentally flawed.”

Here's why the public may never see the report and more.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

How Hempstead is handling a $133 million question

When the CARES Act money for counties, cities and towns was sent out in April, Suffolk County received $257.6 million but Nassau, with a population very nearly as large, received only $103 million.

The difference resulted from the mathematical quirk of a very large town. Hempstead, because its population is more than 500,000, got its own $133 million pot of gold, rather than seeing it routed through Nassau.

So Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and her staff should have plenty of reason to be infuriated, and are calling for more oversight of how Republican Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin spends the cash, right? 

Wrong. They say they’ve got no complaints over how Clavin is handling the money.

But State Sen. Kevin Thomas and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, both Democrats, are crying foul anyway, and both are running against Republicans who make their living in Hempstead’s town government.

At a Thursday news conference at Hempstead Town Hall, Thomas, who is running for reelection against Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr., said: “The far-reaching effects of this pandemic make transparency and accountability in government that much more important. I no longer have confidence in the Town of Hempstead supervisor or the council in dispersing these funds where it is truly needed.”  

Rice, who will face off against Hempstead’s commissioner of engineering, Douglas Tuman, said: “Nassau County basically had their money split in half. Suffolk County got twice as much money and they have exactly the same amount of expenses. These are costs the Town of Hempstead simply does not bear. This $133 million is our money and it’s important that it be distributed fairly."

And Curran? Asked for a comment on how Clavin’s handling of the money is going, her spokeswoman Christine Geed wrote: “County Executive Curran continues to communicate regularly and collaborate with the Town of Hempstead during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her priority is ensuring that all CARES Act funding is spent here, in Nassau County. The County Executive will be meeting with the Town Supervisor again soon to discuss the goal.”

In off-the-record and background conversations, Nassau and Hempstead officials have unanimously said that on this issue Curran and Clavin are talking regularly and getting along without any sort of hitch.

And Clavin said, speaking of Curran: “She and I have a tremendous working relationship, and we are talking on a very regular basis. I think sometimes people just want to see trouble where there is none.”

Clavin’s watchword since the moment this money came through has been caution. He knows there is a spotlight on how it’s used, and he says the federal government has been clear that anything disbursed improperly will be clawed back. Practically his first move upon receiving the funds was sending out a letter to the town’s 23 village mayors asking them to bring their needs to him so he can help. 

“I told them, ‘Save all your COVID expenses and if we can use that money to pay them, we will,” Clavin said. 

So far, about $10 million of the money has been allocated: $4 million to food banks, $4 million to hospitals and $2 million to the Nassau Industrial Development Agency to distribute personal protective equipment kits to businesses.

Now he’s hopeful that discussions with Northwell Health about funding testing sites in the town’s hardest-hit communities will move forward quickly.

“I think we’ve really been looking to do things with this money that no one else is,” Clavin said. “And we’re doing it with everybody’s input, listening to everybody’s needs. Ideally, this is one thing that shouldn’t get political.”

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Cutting ties

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Bonus Point

New York and Uncle Donald Trump

In recognition of Mary Trump being allowed to publish and promote her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” about her uncle President Donald Trump, here are some of the book’s best moments about local politics: 

  • The 1999 death of Fred Trump, the president's father, prompted condolence visits from the likes of real estate developer Sam LeFrak, as well as  then-Gov. George Pataki — and former Sen. Al D’Amato. 
  • Mary Trump puts the aforementioned in a relatively honorable category of visitor. “The rest were most likely there to catch a glimpse of Donald.”
  • Like many NYC transplants and Long Island GOP congressional candidates, Trump has a distaste for parts of the Big Apple, according to the author. “He hated Brooklyn as much as Freddy did but for very different reasons — the bleak working-class smallness of it, the lack of ‘potential.’”
  • The president’s niece seems to like the president’s nemesis, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, particularly during the pandemic. “Donald can insult Cuomo and complain about him, but every day the governor’s real leadership further reveals Donald as a petty, pathetic little man — ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost in his own delusional spin.” 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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