Gillen: Taking on the hacks in court

George J Marlin


The election of Laura Gillen as Town of Hempstead Supervisor in November 2017 ended 112 years of Republican rule.

For generations, Hempstead had been the breeding ground for GOP political hacks who believed the town existed to benefit themselves, not taxpayers.

Power, pensions and perks drove GOP political honchos and government employees were their lackeys. Bureaucrats had to follow the party line or join the unemployment line.

In the post-World War II era, the most powerful Hempstead Republican was Boss Joseph M. Margiotta.

Margiotta was the great dispenser of political patronage. No one got a job without his blessing.

To keep their posts, appointees were expected to contribute a portion of their salaries to party coffers and to be party activists. In Margiotta’s political heyday, the New York Times reported 75 percent of Nassau’s 2,000 Republican committeemen were on a government payroll.

Margiotta abdicated after he was convicted on Federal mail fraud and extortion charges in December 1982.

Interestingly, after hearing the guilty verdict, Margiotta revealed the arrogant, elitist attitude that has guided the GOP machine to this day.

He told reporters: “I was not convicted by a jury of my peers. They are not in the same station of life as me. They live in a different world, in which politicians are viewed with suspicion and antagonism.”

Can one blame the common folks for being suspicious of condescending politicians who find them inferior while happily taking their hard-earned dollars to finance their lifestyles?

Margiotta begat Boss Joe Mondello, who had served as Hempstead Supervisor and spent the last three decades running Nassau’s GOP into the ground while enriching himself.

To get out of town, Mondello recently accepted a very minor ambassadorship to Trinidad and Tobago.

According to the April 2 edition of the N.Y. Law Journal, required Federal financial disclosures reveal that Mondello disclosed “more than $1 million in real state earnings and more than $775,000 in income from a Garden City law firm and his work for the party” during the past 2 years.

Approximately $520,000 came from a small law firm where Mondello served as “of counsel” in the municipal and government affairs practice.

(I wonder how many Republican-controlled municipalities hired that firm?)

Mondello begat Anthony Santino, who after serving for years as Boss Joe’s political valet, was finally permitted to run for Hempstead town supervisor in 2015.

As arrogant as his mentor, after serving only one term the voters had the good sense to boot Santino from office last November.

Resigning several days before his term expired on January 1, 2018, Santino was rewarded for failure with a job at the political graveyard for political hacks — the Board of Elections. He was appointed an “administrative assistant” for a preposterous salary of $160,000 a year.

However, before leaving office, Santino pulled one last stunt.

He rammed through Town board resolutions that severely limited the ability of the new supervisor, Laura Gillen, from firing employees and protected his top political lackeys from being dismissed.

What gall! And gutless Republicans on the board, learning nothing from Santino’s defeat, shamelessly voted in favor of this iniquitous and contemptable legislation.

Refusing to roll over dead, Supervisor Gillen proved her mettle by filing a lawsuit to undo the no-layoff clause.

The 100-page legal brief and exhibits filed with the court, justly argue the Santino resolutions “were adopted in bad faith to strip the Supervisor and Town board of powers they were duly elected with, to wreak havoc on the Budget and the Town’s finances and to protect former Santino’s political allies still employed by the Town.”

In other words, Santino hacks were reassigned with their salaries to unbudgeted civil service jobs in “departments that were not financially positioned to handle the additional salary expense.”

Santino’s political shenanigans will, if upheld, cost Hempstead taxpayers more than $2 million a year because his cronies would not be “immune from termination as a result of budgetary reasons.”

Two clauses in the suit aptly sum up Gillen’s case:

“112. The appointments serve no viable purpose, directly contradict
the provisions of the Contract that was entered into only four months before
and previous comments made by former Supervisor Santino regarding the
need for limited government and less spending.

“113. The two resolutions perpetrate a fraud on the Town and constitute
a waste of public funds.”

Former Supervisor Santino apparently learned nothing last fall, but his lame-duck transgressions prove he learned plenty from Boss Mondello — smugness and contempt for voters.

Supervisor Laura Gillen is “fighting the good fight” against entrenched institutional corruption.

Hopefully, the judicial system sees through Santino’s ploy and concurs.

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