When Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen first got into Town Hall, she said, it was like a “town frozen in time” where serving residents was at “best an afterthought.”
In a sitdown interview with Blank Slate Media on Friday, Gillen, who is seeking re-election for a second term as town supervisor in November, said that a major task is getting the town’s finances in order. Gillen is the town’s first Democratic supervisor in over 100 years.
When talking about the Hempstead GOP, Gillen did not mince her words. “They’ve been grossly irresponsible with the taxpayers’ dollars,” she said.
When Gillen appointed her finance director, Averill Smith, as acting comptroller, she said that Smith’s “head was spinning” over how the town moved money around.
“It’s like your family bank account you just transfer from your checking account to your savings account to your kid’s college account. They just move money around,” Gillen said.
This led to Gillen’s office reaching out to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, which Gillen said is doing a complete fiscal audit of the town.
Gillen said that 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.
Gillen said that she was baffled by how primitive operations were at the largest township in America when she got into office in 2018. Every contract was in a folder in a filing cabinet and nothing was scanned, she said.
“It was the largest town in America and everything was on paper. If Town Hall burned down we wouldn’t have copies of our contracts,” Gillen said.
Gillen said that town workers and leaders are literally walking building to building to have contracts signed in the town.
Gillen’s proposal to authorize an agreement for Granicus Novus Agenda software that would help the town clerk’s office go completely digital was one of five resolutions tabled by the Town Board at a Sept. 24 meeting.
“There’s been no investment in the people paying the taxes. No investment in making the town better,” Gillen said.
She said that a lot of department heads in the town are holdovers from previous administrations and she has no say in whether or not they stay because she does not have enough votes on the Town Board.
Gillen said she does not have the power to fire department heads.
“I’m an executive without executive power,” Gillen said.
Voting for her Republican opponent, Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin, would be “going backward,” she said. Clavin is a career politician who has gone from one government job to another, Gillen said.
Gillen said that Clavin went over budget by $394,323 in 2017, $546,918 in 2018 and so far he is “on track” for 2019.