Gillen seeks to undo no lay-off clause by suit against Santino, union and board

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Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, seen here on election night, is filing a lawsuit against the board, local union and former Supervisor Anthony Santino to nullify a no lay-off clause put in place in Santino's last weeks in office. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against former Supervisor Anthony Santino, the town board members and the Civil Service Employees Association Local 880 to nullify a contract that prevents her from laying off employees even during a financial crisis.

“My predecessor, Supervisor Santino, with one foot out of the door, unlawfully gave away the legal authority of my office to properly oversee the finances of the Town of Hempstead, effectively sabotaging the budget,” Gillen said at a press conference on Thursday.

In December the board, during the Republican Santino’s final meeting in charge, voted 4-3 in favor of a clause that prevented the supervisor from terminating employees for almost any reason except misconduct and incompetence.

The board also passed a resolution to protect individual staff from Santino’s administration from being laid off – adding more than $2 million in unbudgeted dollars to town expenses, Gillen said.

Gillen said it is imperative the court nullify this “illegal agreement and resolution” to restore fiscal responsibility to the town.

“To be clear the goal of this is not to lay off hardworking town employees,” Gillen said. “This is to protect the hardworking employees and the 770,0000 residents of the Town of Hempstead, not award political patronage and at the expense of the taxpayers.”

All town board members are named in the suit – including Erin King Sweeney, Bruce Blakeman and Dorothy Goosby who voted against the matters in December.

All members need to be named for the nullification to be enforceable.

Sweeney, who called herself a “vocal and tireless advocate for transparency and decency, tweeted that it is beyond her comprehension why she’s being sued for something she voted against.

“The Supervisor has made zero attempts to resolve this dispute,” Sweeney tweeted. “Instead, she informed me around 5 p.m. yesterday. This is a complete waste of taxpayer money. We need leadership and cooperation, not grandstanding. This lawsuit will only delay a resolution of the matter.”

Gillen announced her intent to challenge the board’s actions in December at the time of the vote.

Michael Fricchione, a Gillen spokesman, tweeted that the supervisor negotiated with the union “in good faith but to no avail.”

“Only a court can overturn a contract, not a board vote… Supe followed through on her Dec promise to file action to overturn,” Fricchione added.

The Civil Service Employees Association Local 880 declined to comment on the matter.

Efforts to reach Santino were unavailing.

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