Town of Hempstead Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen held a news conference on the steps of Town Hall last Thursday to lambaste outgoing Supervisor Tony Santino’s plans to enact a contract amendment that would prohibit future termination of civil service employees, except for cause. That is, no layoffs would be allowed.
On Monday, Gillen returned to Town Hall to continue denouncing the measure. This time, however, she called on Santino to resign.
The amendment was expected to be taken up by the Hempstead Town Board at a meeting on Tuesday, after press time.
Adding language to Civil Service Employees Association Local 880’s contract with the town to prohibit layoffs would limit the new supervisor’s ability to contain costs in the event of budget shortfalls, which could force tax increases, according to Gillen.
The proposed measure reads, “No employee shall be terminated for reasons due to budgetary, economy, consolidation, abolition of functions, abolition of position or curtailment of activities.”
“Supervisor Santino spent millions of taxpayer dollars sending out relentless mailers bragging about how he slashed the workforce,” Gillen said. “And now, after losing the election, he wants to enter an agreement that would prevent the new administration from balancing the budget during fiscal emergencies.”
The protections contained in the proposed agreement would not apply to staff in the office of the town’s elected officials or department commissioners.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Gillen said, the Town Board was expected to vote on almost $4 million in raises for nearly 200 employees.
And the Town Board could vote to transfer dozens of employees in the offices of town elected officials or department commissioners to jobs protected by workplace rules that would prevent them from being fired or laid off.
Santino, for example, was expected to transfer Matt Coleman from his post as town policy adviser to research assistant in the Department of Conservation and Waterways, with a $150,000 salary. According to Coleman’s LinkedIn page, he has no background in conservation research, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tulane University.
“This is not about layoffs,” Gillen said. “This about preserving the rights of the taxpayers in times of financial distress.”
Gillen’s camp also contended that town records have been destroyed in recent weeks.
Mike Deery, a town spokesman, reportedly said that talks with the CSEA were ongoing, but did not offer details. The CSEA’s current contract was finalized in July.
Deery was expected to be transferred from lead spokesman in the communications department to confidential assistant to the receiver of taxes.
Erin King Sweeney, the Republican Town Board representative from Wantagh, said she would oppose many of the contract measures that Santino had proposed, though she has reportedly said that she would support raises for town assistants.
To watch the Town Board meeting livestreamed, click here.