Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen is calling for an investigation into a contract signed by a former town commissioner and for a current commissioner to resign.
“Our job is to protect the taxpayers of the town, not fill the pockets of the politically connected,” she said.
At a news conference on Monday, Gillen said that the town corruption tax, which she described as taxpayer money diverted from helping the unemployed and given to “political patronage,” was a total of $886,000.
The news conference came after a report by Newsday that in 2017 Ana-Maria Hurtado, then the commissioner of Hempstead’s Department of Occupational Resources, signed a two-year contract with Alcott HR. The contract provided for extra staff, and Hurtado joined the company after retiring in July 2017. Hurtado and two other former town employees, Scott Surkis and Edward Kenny, now work at the company.
Gillen is adamant about taking a stand against the contract, writing on Facebook on Monday, “My job is to protect the taxpayers of this Town and as long I’m in this office, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
Gillen’s office said that Gregory Becker, the current commissioner for the Department of Occupational Resources, extended the contract with Alcott in September 2018 until June 30, 2021.
“Commissioner Becker has displayed gross mismanagement, ignoring my office’s multiple directives to bring the department in line with federal funding and failing to provide any tangible documentation relating to the procurement process surrounding the contract in question,” Gillen said at the news conference. She called on Becker to resign.
In a vote on Tuesday, Town Board members voted not to extend the contract. When Gillen voted she did not make a comment, saying that the contract was now under investigation. Other council members voted no, but they also cited town code.
Under Town of Hempstead code a town commissioner is responsible for all agreements for the expenditure of federally derived funds for all authorized employment, training services and other costs, and these agreements shall be effective only where made and signed by the commissioner or his designee, subject to federal funding rules and regulations.
Councilman Anthony D’Esposito voted no on the extension and said, “The commissioner’s signature in law authorized a contract and the Town Board does not need to approve it.”
Councilman Dennis Dunne explained his no vote, saying, “The commissioner’s signature alone authorizes the contract. The Town Board does not need to authorize the contract.”
When asked if the contract will last until 2021, Michael Fricchione of Gillen’s press office, said via email, “Supervisor Laura Gillen says no and she will fight to end the contract. The Town Attorney and Town Council believe that the Commissioner has the right to extend the contract, not the Town Board.”