Court rules in Gillen’s favor over town’s no lay-off clause

Jed Hendrixson
Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen standing alongside attorney Matthew Didora Wednesday morning outside the Nassau County Supreme Court building. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

A Nassau County Supreme Court judge has ruled that former Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino and current members of the town board violated the town’s ethics code by voting on and ratifying an amendment to a collective bargaining agreement.

At a press conference outside the court building Wednesday morning, Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen announced the results of the lawsuit she filed back in April 2018, aiming to reverse the amendment, which transferred previous administration employees to other departments and protected them from lay-offs.

“It is a case study into the same old games of the political machine that ran this town for over a century plays at the expense of taxpayers,” Gillen said. 

The court ruled that the amendment must be annulled and vacated.

Efforts to reach Santino and Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who voted in favor of the amendment, were unavailing.

At Santino’s last town board meeting as acting supervisor in Dec. 2017, he and several other members of the board passed the amendment, transferring 14 employees from his and the clerk’s offices to various other departments and stating they could only be terminated for misconduct or incompetence.

There was vocal opposition to the amendment at the meeting, according to court documents, including cries from residents that the move was sabotage in an attempt to bankrupt the town.

Town Councilmembers Erin King Sweeney, Bruce Blakeman and Dorothy Goosby voted against the amendment. The amendment passed by a 4-3 vote.

According to court documents, Santino and D’Esposito should have both abstained from voting on the amendment, which would have failed without their votes, as they both had family members that stood to gain from the amendment’s passing.

The amendment handcuffed the members of the town board, not just Supervisor Gillen, and jeopardized the fiscal integrity of the town, Blakeman said at the meeting.

Gillen said that when she told Blakeman she planned to file the lawsuit to overturn the amendment, he wished her luck.

“This had nothing to do with helping the rank and file workers of this town, and it had everything to do with protecting approximately 14 favored political appointees from the outgoing supervisors and clerks office after they lost reelection,” Gillen said. 

Previously, Gillen named the individual members of the town board in the lawsuit.

In May 2018, Gillen removed the individual board members names and field the suit against Santino, the board and the local civil service union.

Gillen’s authority to manage the budget through consolidation of departments, lay-offs and possible salary cuts has been restored moving forward.

“This is but one battle in a larger war to change the culture of Town of Hempstead and to end the cronyism and nepotism that has reined there for decades,” Gillen said.

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