Gillens eyes political dept. heads with new proposal

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Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, left, and Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, right, said Thursday they are supporting a resolution that would prevent town department heads from also serving as political committee leaders. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said Thursday she plans to take on a “culture of corruption” in the town with legislation that would ban department heads from holding positions of power and influence in political party organizations.

Gillen said that about half of the Town of Hempstead’s department chiefs, including nearly every commissioner and the town attorney,  hold positions of power, influence, and authority in local Republican clubs.

Gillen said her legislation would not prevent people from joining political parties of their choice, but that it would prevent them from having a high rank in conjunction with their town position.

“Government employees should never become or feel that they have to become part of a political party machine beholden to party officials and not to the taxpayers,” Gillen said. “No town employee should feel that their promotions, their raises or their very employment are dependent on giving a donation to a candidate or for doing political work.”

The legislation would prohibit any commissioner, deputy commissioner, director, deputy director or member of any board, commission, or authority appointed by the Town Board to serve as any position above a committee person in a political organization.

Gillen said that her office has heard from “whistleblower” employees who said they were “shaken down” for donations, forced to sign petitions and hand out flyers and forced to partake in other methods to help out local political campaigns.

Gillen and Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, both up for re-election in November, said that they do not pressure their employees into helping their campaign with Gillen saying that her donation forms also require the person to confirm they are not a Hempstead employee when donating.

The proposal will be brought forward for a public hearing at the Nov. 12 Town Board Meeting and will be brought forward for a vote Dec. 10, Gillen said.

Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito voiced his opposition to the proposal, saying in a statement, “I suggest Laura Gillen read the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees its citizens the right to participate in the political process. If she lost her copy, I’d be more than happy to loan her mine.”

Gillen, a Democrat, is running for her second term against Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin.

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