Town Board set to vote on Tiernan appointment Thursday

Town Board set to vote on Tiernan appointment Thursday
The North Hempstead Town Board will be holding their next meeting on Thursday, May 19. (Photo courtesy of the office of the supervisor)

The Town of North Hempstead Town Board will be voting Thursday night to appoint Thomas Tiernan to highway superintendent, six years after he resigned from the same position following probes into his overtime compensation.

It is currently unclear the compensation that Tiernan would be receiving if appointed. 

Supervisor Jennifer DeSena called on her Democrat colleagues, specifically Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, to withdraw the resolution slated to be voted on later this week. 

Lurvey said that Tiernan was “phenomenal” during his first stint in the position.

“The Highway Department is responsible for the maintenance and repair of 300 miles of town roads, including pavement and drainage, tree planting, street sweeping, and snow removal. Mr. Tiernan did a phenomenal job as town highway superintendent, possessing nearly four decades of experience with the town,” Lurvey previously said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “He is someone who knows North Hempstead and cares deeply about our residents.”

Tiernan had worked with the town since 1980 and was named highway chief in 2000. In 2016, Tiernan resigned following reports in Newsday that he had amassed over $130,000 in overtime between 2011 and 2016, according to Newsday payroll data, and an internal investigation by the town.

Following Tiernan’s resignation, Joe Geraci, the deputy commissioner of public works at the time, served as the town’s acting highway superintendent from 2016 to September 2018, when the town officially began its search for a full-time superintendent. 

After Geraci, Kevin Cronin, then administrative assistant to Supervisor Judi Bosworth, was the acting commissioner. His salary in 2019 was $117,507, according to town payroll filings.

Richard Baker became the first permanent highway chief in 2019, just over two years since Tiernan resigned. After his February appointment, Baker resigned that July, just four months after he had gotten the job. At the time of his resignation, Baker was earning $140,000 according to Newsday. 

Harry Weed, the town’s acting highway superintendent, has been in his role since 2021. A resolution to appoint him on a permanent basis was tabled in January to determine whether he lives in the town, as required. Weed’s annual salary is $150,828, according to Newsday.

If Tiernan is approved, it would represent another loss for DeSena, who has battled with the Town Board’s Democratic majority on a number of issues since taking office in January. DeSena has failed to appoint members to the town’s board of ethics for several months following abstentions from the Democrats. 

From 2019 to 2021, Town Board members voted to abstain one time. So far, in six meetings in 2022, the majority councilmembers have cast their vote as abstain 60 times.

DeSena held a press conference with reporters on the steps of Village Hall Monday, May 9 where she demanded the resolution’s rescinding. 

DeSena said at the time of his resignation, Tiernan was the town’s highest-paid employee and was the only highway superintendent on Long Island to collect overtime pay due to both his union contract and the position being made into a civil service job in 2011.

Tiernan was paid $40,000 in overtime in 2015, $30,000 in 2014 and $21,000 in 2013, according to Newsday payroll data.

During the same time period, DeSena said, no other person in his position on Long Island earned overtime compensation, including Hempstead, which the supervisor said is responsible for nearly five times as much roadway. 

DeSena also noted that Tiernan was the subject of an internal investigation in 2015 through the town attorney’s office following complaints from a vendor that Tiernan verbally abused a vendor, a claim the supervisor said was backed by “credible evidence.”

He was also accused of manipulating who received town highway contracts. The investigation found that Tiernan did abuse town contractors, DeSena said.

At the time of his resignation, several members of Tiernan’s family were on the town’s payroll.

His sister, Helen McCann, is a former longtime employee of the town.

In 2018, she was sentenced to a conditional discharge for embezzling more than $98,000 from the Solid Waste Management Authority from 2014 to 2016, prosecutors said. She was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the town, $48,330 to an insurance company for a claim made by the town and pleaded guilty to second-degree corrupting the government charges. 

His brother, John, was a 27-year town employee who was a highway construction supervisor. He was asked to resign in 2018 after the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board found he “knowingly made material misrepresentations” to get benefits, according to Newsday.

His wife, Jill Guiney, is a former town deputy commissioner of public works. 

Following Tiernan’s resignation in 2016,  the Town Board under Supervisor Judi Bosworth the next year passed anti-nepotism laws in the town, which included preventing relatives of elected town officials from being employed by the town, prohibiting a town employee from participating in any personnel decision about a relative and banning town employees from supervising a relative, among others. 

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