TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A newly elected town supervisor on Long Island is challenging her predecessor’s 11th hour no-layoff moves.
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen says her budget simply cannot afford all the raises and transfers of protected workers.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, it’s highly unusual for a chief executive officer to sue her own town, but that just happened.
“When I won, he gave away the store to the union on his last town board meeting,” Gillen said.
The “he” being former GOP town supervisor Anthony Santino, who shocked the bipartisan crowd last December by protecting 192 town employees with appointments, transfers and promotions during his final days in office.
“Those are not all at issue in this lawsuit. We point directly to the supervisor’s executive staff and the town clerk’s executive staff,” Gillen said.
She is now challenging 14 of those raises, which she said will amount to $2 million the town can’t afford.
During the raucous meeting in December, several board members voted no, including Republicans, but it passed. Now, they’re in the awkward position of being named in the lawsuit.
“Right now, I am evaluating the legal position that I’m in, since I voted against it, but I’m still being sued. But in any event, I understand her frustration,” said Town of Hempstead Board Member Bruce Blakeman.
Gillen said board members who rejected Santino’s personnel moves are “defendants” in name only. She said she is working with them across party lines and the lawsuit is to protect taxpayers.
“If I was in her position, I would want my own people there,” one resident said.
“It’s not really building a bridge, you’re essentially just creating more infighting,” said another.
“You’d like everyone to work together toward a common goal,” another added.
“Hempstead is not only the largest town on Long island, it’s the largest suburban town in America. So anything that happens there is something to keep an eye on,” said Hofstra University Dean of Suburban Studies Lawrence Levy.
Gillen, who ran as an outsider, is the first Democrat supervisor elected there in 100 years. The goal of her lawsuit is to nullify a union amendment, which states, “no employee shall be terminated for economic or budgetary reasons.” She said she’s handcuffed during a fiscal crisis.
Once the court rules, the supervisor will decide who foots the bill for legal fees.
Some board members on both sides of the aisle said they agree the no-layoff clause is dangerous in a fiscal emergency.