N. Hempstead appoints new highway super, rejects DeSena’s comptroller pick

N. Hempstead appoints new highway super, rejects DeSena’s comptroller pick
Douglas Schlaefer. (Photo courtesy of the Town of North Hempstead)

North Hempstead Democrats voted to appoint Douglas Schlaefer as superintendent of highways in the town and reject Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s pick for comptroller Thursday night. 

Following Schlaefer’s appointment in a 4-3 party-line vote, DeSena withdrew a resolution to vote on her own pick for highway superintendent, Gerrard Losquadro.

A resolution to appoint John Morris, a former Smithtown comptroller with over 15 years of municipal accounting experience, was also rejected. Morris has previously served as treasurer for the Villages of Mastic Beach and Westbury and director of finance for the town under Supervisor May Newburger from 1998 to 2001.

Schlaefer is coming out of retirement to work for the Town where he was an employee for 31 years. His previous positions include highway maintenance supervisor II, where he recorded the highest score on the civil service exam administered by Nassau County, and highway construction supervisor.

“I love this Town and am extremely proud to have been presented with such an extraordinary opportunity,” Schlafer said in a statement. “It will be my honor to serve as highway superintendent, and I look forward to serving the entire North Hempstead community.”

The position had been left vacant when Democrats in May voted to remove acting Highway Superintendent Harry Weed. 

During the same meeting when Weed was removed, a resolution appointing Thomas Tiernan, a former North Hempstead highway superintendent who resigned in 2016 amid a probe into overtime earnings between 2011 and 2016, was tabled and never brought to the floor again. 

Schlaefer’s additional experience includes chairman of the Board of Zoning  Appeals, commissioner of public works and highway superintendent for the Village of Manorhaven. 

His salary will be $155,000 a year. 

“During Mr. Schlaefer’s long career, he has demonstrated extensive knowledge and skill regarding the daily operations of the Town’s Highway Department,” said Council Member Veronica Lurvey. “He was eminently qualified, and we are excited to have him take the lead as superintendent of highways for the Town.”

Democrat Robert Troiano said Schlaefer “proved to be a valuable asset to the Town” when the two worked together during Troiano’s time as the Town’s director of operations. 

DeSena said in a statement she is glad the position has been filled but was critical of the Town Board majority’s decision to vote down her choice for comptroller.

“I am pleased that the Town has installed a new highway superintendent six months after the majority council members chose to recklessly terminate our acting highway superintendent without a replacement in line,” DeSena said in a statement. “Throughout the interview process, Mr. Schlaeffer showed himself to be a capable and qualified candidate for the highway superintendent position, and I look forward to seeing his leadership and experience in action during the upcoming winter storm season.”

Lurvey told Blank Slate Media it was her understanding that Deputy Supervisor Joe Scalero offered the position to Schlaefer and that DeSena put forward the resolution to name Losquadro shortly before the deadline to submit the agenda. 

“We looked at over 20 resumes and interviewed several finalists and the deputy supervisor offered the position to Mr. Schlaefer. And then five minutes before the deadline to put items on the agenda she submitted somebody else’s name.”

Scalero said in a statement his last conversation with Schlaefer was to discuss salary, which was the same discussion he had with Losquadro. 

“Neither of these calls ended with a job offer. When it came time to submit an item for the agenda by the deadline, it was made clear to their staff prior to submission that the supervisor’s choice was Mr. Losquadro,” Scalero said.

The supervisor also said she was concerned by the majority’s “partisan attempts” to delay the hiring of a comptroller, which has been vacant since DeSena took office in January. 

“This Town has been without a comptroller or chief deputy comptroller for a full year now, and that is both shocking and absolutely unacceptable,” DeSena continued. “At this point, it’s clear that they are actively blocking the hiring of a new comptroller solely for political gain, especially given the fact that Councilwoman Lurvey and members of their staff agreed Mr. Morris was a qualified and capable candidate following our joint interview. Our residents deserve better than elected officials who would prioritize playing politics over what’s in the best interest of our Town’s fiscal health and bond rating.”

Lurvey, who said during the vote Thursday night the Losquadro resolution came without any warning before voting no, contended the supervisor puts forward names when she knows it will not get the votes.

“I think it’s horrible government and it’s not fair to these people. It erodes the trust in our government,” Lurvey said. 

Council member Mariann Dalimonte, a Democrat, cited a Newsday article that reported Morris was not re-hired as the Smithtown comptroller and that council member Robert Creighton said his term “didn’t work out to our satisfaction” before she voted no.

Brian Devine, spokesman for the supervisor, said Morris was the only candidate left after a year-long bipartisan search process and “the only reason Councilwoman Lurvey and her members would vote against his appointment would be to stall the process even further in yet another sad attempt to hinder the progress made by Supervisor DeSena’s administration over the past year.”

The next meeting for the North Hempstead Town Board will be Jan. 12. 

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