During her annual State of the Town address last Friday, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth focused on the town’s transparency efforts and importance of running an open government.
Bosworth said at the Clubhouse at Harbor Links in Port Washington that the town would continue to make strides towards enhancing its ethics reforms that began in March 2016.
“I will never lose sight of the fact that we are here to serve our residents. Our residents are entitled to know how their government is running, what its priorities are and how we are spending their tax dollars,” she said. “I will continue to run town government in an open and transparent manner, in a way that people can trust, because it’s the only way I can imagine doing things. Our residents deserve no less.”
The town board approved a package of revisions to its ethics code in March, requiring contractors and more officials to file financial disclosures and adding family members who work for the town to the information that must be disclosed.
The town began taking additional steps in April to address corruption and conflicts of interest after a Newsday report revealed that the former town Democratic chairman, Gerard Terry, had $1.4 million in tax debts.
Terry attended the supervisor’s speech, but declined to comment.
On Feb. 28, the town board is set to hold two public hearings to strengthen its ethics code and create rules for situations when family members are employed by the town.
Bosworth also noted that several town departments have changed over the past year to a “no cash policy.”
“We have put in place the ability to accept other methods of payment, with the goal of moving to a noncash operation, or as close to that as possible,” she said. “There is now a no cash policy at the town’s Highway Department, Solid Waste Management Authority, the Port Washington Parking District and the Building Department, while other departments have greatly reduced the number of services they accept cash for.”
“In addition, we have hired an outside firm to review our cash policies so that we can have an independent additional set of eyes taking a look at what other changes we can institute,” Bosworth added.
A former employee, Helen McCann, was arrested last February for allegedly stealing $98,000 from the Solid Waste Management Authority. Before Jan. 1, the authority accepted cash or check payments, but no longer does so.
During her speech, Bosworth also noted the town’s improved bond rating, with Moody’s Investors Service upgrading the town’s Aa1 rating from “stable outlook” to “positive outlook.” The rating is “one small step away” from a AAA rating, the highest Moody’s offers, she said.
Bosworth touted the town’s decision to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years old.
“The legislation was inspired by my colleague and friend the late Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs. I know that today Judy is looking down and smiling to see what we have accomplished in her name,” she said. “I am also very hopeful that our 31 villages will also follow suit in adopting the ‘Tobacco 21’ law as well.”
“We’ve just learned that Williston Park, under the leadership of Mayor Paul Ehrbar, is also considering joining us in this effort,” Bosworth added. “We hope other villages will, as well.”
Renovations scheduled to be made at the Clinton G. Martin Pool in New Hyde Park, Bosworth said, were a direct result of town officials and members of the community coming together to determine what would serve residents best.
“I think the planning process for this community pool was a great example of government working in partnership with residents to assure that everyone’s voice was heard,” she said. “We listened, residents made suggestions, sometimes very vocally, and we adjusted our designs.”
Similar to the pool renovations, Bosworth said recent meetings about improvements at North Hempstead Beach Park exemplified the same partnership between town officials and residents.
“At these meetings residents viewed possible plans for the 90-acre park and the 200 wooded acres across the street and were able to make valuable suggestions about what their vision is for the park,” she said. “It is very exciting for all of us to reimagine how the town’s former Bar Beach and the additional property we received from the county can be combined, while making sure we preserve the wooded areas and protect our wetlands.”
Bosworth said the town would be partnering with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove on several initiatives “aimed at supporting, protecting and empowering those who are targets of hateful acts and raising consciousness about the importance of us standing together in opposition to hate.”