HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A controversial proposal to reward 192 town employees with protected jobs was voted through Tuesday afternoon.
Many taxpayers, and the newly elected Hempstead town supervisor, showed up to protest.READ MORE: Cuomo Faces Mounting Calls To Resign Or Face Impeachment Trial After Bombshell AG Report
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan, it was boos galore for the outgoing town supervisor from a disgruntled and partisan crowd.
“Before you leave, supervisor Santino, I want to thank you… for being such a blatant bully,” Merrick voter Lucille de Fina said to a chorus of cheers. “Isn’t this the reason this place is packed?”
It was standing room only at the final board meeting, with tension in the lobby from those who were turned away.
“We voted Santino out and Laura Gillen in,” Merrick voter Audrey Ciuffo said. “We want change.”
Unfortunately, it’s not the change some had hoped for. Before he leaves office, Santino made a last minute proposal to appoint, transfer, or give raises to 192 town employees. It’s a power play, says Supervisor-elect Gillen.
“He’s set policy for my administration, which is absurd,” she said. “He’s a lame duck supervisor. He is supposed to go away. The people elected me to bring in ethics and reform to the town of Hempstead.”
“There are people with decades of institutional knowledge that are critical to the operations of town government and we are looking to retain those people,” town GOP spokesman Mike Deery said.READ MORE: New York Auto Show Cancelled Due To COVID-19 Delta Variant Concerns
The action itself is legal, and usually done, but not to the magnitude seen on Tuesday says Lawrence Levy from Hofstra University’s Center of Suburban Studies.
“It sends a message that Tony Santino wants to take care of people who were loyal to him,” the Hofstra dean said. “He’s probably looking after the Republican organization to keep people in place if he’s trying for a comeback.”
The fiscally conservative good government group Reclaim New York, usually supportive of Republican positions, is harshly critical this time around.
“It’s a shameless move… that puts political interests ahead of the will of the people,” spokesman Michael Watt said.
Santino also put through amendments to collective bargaining agreements.
“They’ve come to this backroom deal with this no-layoff clause that would not be able to ever lay anybody off even in a financial crisis,” Gillen said.
Chants of “don’t steal my money” flooded the Tuesday meeting, but in the end Santino’s resolutions passed with a vote of four to three. Even some Republicans objected to the measures.
“Absolutely wrong,” town Councilman Bruce Blakeman said. “This may be legal but this is corruption.”MORE NEWS: Officials Announce Plan To Preserve Crumbling BQE For Another 20 Years
Gillen, the first Democratic elected supervisor in Hempstead’s 100 year history vows to sue over the so-called political patronage jobs. In the meantime, she says she’ll review all employees based on merit and will keep those who work on behalf of taxpayers.