Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen removed a proposed deal from Tuesday’s Town Board meeting agenda that she said would give an estimated $870,000 in raises to politically appointed town employees.
Gillen called the proposal a “blatant and flagrant abuse of taxpayer money” before tearing a copy of the resolution to pieces during a press conference Thursday morning held in her Town Hall office.
“I’m saying right here and right now that I’m not signing this, nor will I ever sign this, because it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” Gillen said.
According to a copy of the resolution, the town entered into negotiations with the local union.
Gillen said she was not notified of any negotiations.
“Town law is clear in that the supervisor is the chief executive and fiscal officer of this town, and any town, in the state of New York, and is the only one who can negotiate an agreement on behalf of the town to be put before the board,” Gillen said. “Therefore, this agreement does not exist.”
Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who Gillen said submitted the resolution, called Gillen’s removal of the item an “undignified political stunt.”
In a statement, Sweeney said Gillen has “gone well beyond her authority under the law” and “has demonstrated a lack of leadership and honesty on an issue that deserves to be heard by the public.”
The resolution could still be called up by Town Board members the day of the meeting and brought to a vote, according to town officials.
Sweeney also said that the labor issue in question is “legal in all respects and was lawfully placed on the Town Board calendar for consideration by all members of the Town Board.”
The proposed deal would cost taxpayers an immediate $286,000 to give appointed employees a raise for last year and this year, Gillen said. It would cost taxpayers an additional $580,000 for raises the next three years, she said.
The deal would apply to about 86 employees, according to town officials.
The town has already given more than $200,000 in raises to town employees this year, Gillen said. She noted that those raises were given on a case by case basis and only if there was enough money allotted in the department.
“Altogether, along with the raises that have already been doled out this year, the taxpayers would be on the book for an additional $1 million,” Gillen said.
Gillen said members of her own staff that would benefit from the deal have said they would not “accept a dime more than what was already budgeted.”
The proposed deal, and Gillen’s opposition to it, echoed a similar situation that left the Town Board divided just week’s before Gillen took office and became the first Democrat to serve in the position in over 100 years.
During his last meeting in office, former Towner Supervisor Anthony Santino pushed through a clause that prevented the supervisor from terminating employees for almost all reasons, even in times of fiscal emergency.
Gillen, although not yet in office, publicly opposed the clause. Sweeney, Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby voted against it.
Gillen is currently suing the local union, Santino and the Town Board in an effort to undo the no lay-off clause.