In 2017, Gillen became the first Democrat elected Hempstead town supervisor in more than 100 years.
The town’s Republican leadership, which regularly put partisan politics over good government, did not take this well.
In his last days as town supervisor, Anthony Santino and his supporters on the town council handed out $4 million in raises to 197 employees, moved his top patronage hires to permanent positions in the Gillen administration and granted the town’s unions a no-layoff clause.
Gillen sued to rescind the board’s actions, pulling no punches in the process. Named in the lawsuit was not only the Town Board but all of its members – including those who voted against the personnel changes and in two cases Republicans who had backed her against Santino.
Ultimately, she won on the no-layoff clause and lost on the raises and promotions.
Gillen said she then discovered a government marked by corruption and incompetence.
The town’s finance were in such a mess, she said, that she asked state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office to do a complete fiscal audit of the town.
Gillen said the FBI is investigating the controversial contract with the Dover Gourmet Catering company at the town’s Malibu Beach along with other investigations that Gillen said she could not specify.
The Nassau district attorney’s office is investigating the Dover contract as well as the town’s Building Department, Gillen said. Gillen said that the town has received subpoenas from the district attorney’s office for records at 200 N. Franklin St.
And every town contract was in a folder in a filing cabinet and nothing was scanned, she said.
Gillen has had some big successes. She received approvals for ethics reform proposal that cut down on nepotism and conflicts of interest, increased transparency highlighted by online posting of town contracts, a law to require bidding on all professional services contracts of more than $10,000, a broad reduction in town spending on political mailers masquerading as informational literature and massive increases in road repaving and repairs.
She also had some failures.
The Town Board recently tabled five money-saving measures, apparently based on an unwillingness to give Gillen an accomplishment to present to voters.
One of the five was a contract to digitize the clerk’s office, create greater transparency and get rid of the 72 typewriters needed to run the office. Yes, 72 typewriters. In 2019.
A second was a Siemens energy performance contract.
The contract had gone through a bipartisan review process involving thousands of hours of work over the last year that cost the town tens of thousands of dollars and Siemens several hundred thousand dollars.
It was projected to provide the town $11.381 million in guaranteed electric savings that would have paid for five energy-related projects.
Gillen says she is optimistic that Democrats will gain the majority on the Town Board in the upcoming elections and obvious reforms in town operations will no longer be impeded.
Gillen is opposed by Republican Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, who has held his post since 2001.
Clavin said he runs an efficient office high on customer service and up-to-date technology – a management style he would bring to the town.
He said he wants to cut spending, citing the elimination of take-home cars for nonunion employees. He said he gave up his take-home car two months ago – after having had it for 18 years – to demonstrate leadership by example.
Clavin said that Gillen’s handling of the personnel issue at the beginning of her term created a rift with the town council that he could end, and he had the ability to work with people across the aisle.
But while he was quick to point at what he said were Gillen’s shortcomings he was unwilling to point to any shortcomings among town council members or previous supervisors.
He repeatedly criticized Gillen’s response to the personnel moves made by Santino and the town council members, but not the personnel moves themselves.
Clavin also declined to discuss the money-saving proposals recently put forward by Gillen, whether he supported them or what he thought of the council’s decision to table votes on them.
During the campaign, Clavin has joined Republican county legislators in partisan attacks on the countywide reassessment instituted by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat.
This followed eight years in which no reassessment was done under then-County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, and county values were thrown completed out of whack.
This is a pattern with Clavin.
He says he will change the Town of Hempstead. But actual results are on Gillen’s side.
Blank Slate Media endorses Gillen.