Santino steps down, gets $160K position with board of elections

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Santino steps down, gets $160K position with board of elections
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino is stepping down two days before the end of his term. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Hempstead)

Outgoing Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino is stepping down today – just two days before Supervisor-Elect Laura Gillen, a Democrat, is sworn in, according to a town spokeswoman.

Santino will be taking on an administrative assistant position at the Nassau County Board of Elections that will pay $160,000, according to Newsday.

Securing a new job with the town or county after defeat isn’t out of the norm, according to Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

“It’s business as usual,” Levy said. “The question is, what’s the public’s appetite for usual.”

Historically, the public has tolerated this behavior, Levy said.

Levy said most residents consider three questions; whether the job needs to get done, whether the person is qualified and whether the level of pay is somewhere near what it would be if it were anyone else doing it.

The answer to all three, Levy said, is usually yes.

“Santino has been a government [official], and fairly effective government official, for a long time,” Levy said. “And the job at the board of elections is one that’s been in existence for a very long time and split up by law between the two parties so it is by nature a political job.”

Santino’s served on the town board since 1993, when he won his first four-year term. He was elected supervisor in 2015 with 60 percent of the vote.

In some ways Santino, who Gillen has previously said undermined the American tradition of a peaceful transition of power, answered his soon-to-be successor’s wishes.

A few weeks ago Gillen held a press conference urging Santino to step down early, before the board voted on amendment to a union contract Santino proposed that would limit the board’s ability to layoff employees.

The amendment passed, and the board approved 192 promotions, transfers and hirings.

Gillen said in a statement that  “it’s too bad Santino didn’t resign before doling out over $4 million in taxpayer funded raises and sweetheart deals for his friends and close political associates.”

“Santino continues to show his contempt for the public by sticking it to the taxpayers before rushing to get on another public payroll,” Gillen said.

Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, deputy supervisor, will take over for his fellow Republican in the two day interim, a Town of Hempstead spokeswoman said.

Many Town of Hempstead residents weren’t pleased with Santino’s final actions.

He was met with booing from a packed room as he sat for his last meeting, followed by a slew of residents coming to the bench, pleading to him and the board not to pass the amendment to the union contract – an act they said kept Santino’s loyalists in power at the expense of the taxpayers.

Now it seems Santino will be taken care of, too.

Although the voters chose to lose Santino in November, Levy said, as an administrative aide Santino will have less impact on the issues people may have voted him out for.

“It’s not like he’s moving from one high power policy job where he made people unhappy to [another],” Levy said. “[It’s an] administrative job where they’re not going to notice a thing he does.”

However, with the elimination of state and local tax deductions, people may start looking a little harder at the level of spending, Levy said.

Levy said people may be concerned with how much elected officials and government workers are making in general after the impacts of the tax reform hit.

“Whether it starts with Tony Santino remains to be seen, and is probably unlikely,” Levy said.

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