Town board hires ex-chief deputy comptroller for services during budget process, appoints interim comptroller

Town board hires ex-chief deputy comptroller for services during budget process, appoints interim comptroller
The North Hempstead Town Board held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

North Hempstead Town Board Democrats approved a resolution along party lines to use Hilary Grossman, the former chief deputy comptroller of the town, for accounting services in the upcoming budget process.

The board also unanimously appointed Finance Director Paul Wood as acting comptroller, temporarily filling a role in the comptroller’s office that has a vacancy in its top three positions. 

Council Member Veronica Lurvey, a Democrat, presented an amendment to the other six members of the town board that authorized any member of the town board to use Grossman’s services.

Lurvey’s amendment authorized town board members access to Grossman’s services which include reviewing the tentative budget, which must be submitted by North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer Desena by the end of the month, preparing any changes or amendments to the tentative budget and reviewing the preliminary budget, among other things. 

DeSena, a Republican, said the “substantial” changes allowing the six other members to use Grossman’s services encroached on her role in creating the budget.

Lurvey said DeSena has the authority to submit her budget, but it then becomes the town board’s responsibility to approve the budget. 

“We are making it clear right off the bat that whoever is hired is not just your personal assistant,” Lurvey said. “Because once you prepare your budget, it becomes the town board’s responsibility.”

During the Sept. 1 meeting last year, a resolution was unanimously approved to hire Grossman for accounting services but did not include language that specified allowing all members of the town board to use Grossman’s services. 

Before voting on the amendments, the four Democrats on the town board abstained from voting on the original resolution when DeSena made a motion for it. The Democrats then voted to reconsider the resolution, accept the amendments and approve the new amended resolution on a 4-3 party-line vote. 

Wood was appointed for the second time in as many years as acting comptroller after former Comptroller Kristen Schwaner resigned unexpectedly in August four months after she was appointed following an extensive bipartisan search process. 

North Hempstead is currently without a full-time town comptroller and two deputy comptrollers, with one deputy resigning earlier this year in February and the other deputy slot, previously held by Grossman, being vacant since January 2022.

Before Schwaner’s appointment, the last full-time comptroller was Tania Orenstein, who resigned in December 2021. 

Members of the town board from both parties accused the other of making life difficult for Schwaner in her day-to-day responsibilities, leading to her resignation.

The comptroller position oversees operations of the comptroller’s office and is responsible for overseeing the budget process, annual audits and filing annual financial reports, among other things.

North Hempstead’s website currently has job postings for town comptroller and chief deputy comptroller in the comptroller’s office, paying $160,000 a year and $110,000-$120,000 a year, respectively. 

After DeSena submits her tentative budget by the end of September, the town board will schedule budget hearings during its Oct. 3 meeting. The board will vote on the final budget prior to Election Day in November. 

In unrelated town news, a public hearing to consider the expansion of the Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park, which is looking to add a third story to its building, was continued to October so Council Member David Adhami can hold another community meeting with residents and the center. 

A public hearing to consider adding a two-story addition to a former funeral home at 2000 Hillside Blvd. in New Hyde Park and convert it into a Sikh temple was also continued to the Oct. 3 meeting. 

The town board also set a date for a public hearing to consider public input on North Hempstead potentially acquiring Sunset Park in Port Washington on Oct. 3.

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