Members of the Hempstead Town Board’s Republican majority voted Tuesday to indefinitely postpone an agenda item proposing that the town hold a public hearing to discuss having special elections.
The only two Democrats on the board, Supervisor Laura Gillen and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, voted against the postponement, which was approved 5-2.
Gillen and Goosby are also the only two members of the board originally elected to serve; the rest of the board members were appointed to their first terms.
The town board members have been elected to subsequent terms following their appointments.
This is the third time Gillen called for a public hearing on special elections. It has been tabled by the majority every time.
Currently, if a vacancy on the board opens up it is filled by an appointment by board members.
At a news conference on Monday, Gillen said the current system help protects the power of incumbency.
“It’s disgraceful that whenever there is a vacancy in the town, voters are robbed of an opportunity to make their voices heard,” Gillen said.
Dunne said during the meeting that special elections would leave a gap in representation for districts, noting that a special election takes time.
“If I leave, I want my folks in Levittown taken care of,” Dunne said. “If it’s appointed or not, somebody has to be there to take that position.”
All but Gillen also voted in favor of a rule change that requires that if a majority of members vote to indefinitely table an item it can’t be brought to a vote until a majority chooses to add it back to an agenda.
Gillen said the move is a “blatant attempt to silence [her] office,” calling it “shocking and undemocratic.”
Typically, items are tabled for further clarity, Gillen said.
“Tabling never intended to bury an item forever so the public never gets to comment and board members never have to expose their positions on an issue they have too much cowardice to vote on,” Gillen said.
The approved change will also allow items to be added to the agenda the day before the agenda is posted publicly.
Gillen said this leaves no time her office, or others, to review items and puts a burden on the town clerk.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Councilman Dennis Dunne was finishing out a term he was appointed to in June 2017. Dunne was re-elected to serve another term in November 2017.
Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at email@example.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.