Town Republicans hire deputy comptrollers, DPW leaders, Dems oppose due to exclusion

Town Republicans hire deputy comptrollers, DPW leaders, Dems oppose due to exclusion
CSEA Unit #7555 President Tom McDonough addresses the town board. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Town of North Hempstead voted to hire a series of employees Tuesday night, including two deputy comptrollers and a commissioner for the Department of Public Works, but the board’s Democrats voted against the hirings after being left out of hiring conversations.

The town hired two deputy comptrollers – Michael Schlosser and Vivian Qian.

Also hired was Kristen DiStefano, who will serve as the commissioner for the Department of Public Works – a position that has been vacant for about five years. Hired alongside her was also a deputy commissioner.

The issue escalated upon Supervisor Jennifer DeSena saying an offer had been made to an applicant for town comptroller.

Democrat Councilmember Robert Troiano expressed surprise at the news, saying he was also not included in this hiring process.

“I represent a sixth of this town and they’re very concerned and interested in the town’s finances,” Troiano said. “And so they would expect that I would, before you made an offer, that I would have at least the opportunity to see a resume.”

Troiano criticized the supervisor for not being transparent in her hiring process and not fostering collaboration.

Tensions rose between Democrats and Republicans on the board as both sides provided examples of the other excluding them in hiring conversations, with Republican Councilmember Dennis Walsh talking loudly over Troiano at one point to prevent him from speaking.

Troiano also condemned that the job positions for higher positions, like comptroller and commissioner of the department of public sorks, were not posted online. DeSena said job postings are not required, but Troiano said this limits the applicant pool.

The board’s Republicans all voted in favor of the hirings, with Democrats voting to approve some.

The Democrats voted to not hire two deputy comptrollers, the commissioner and deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Works, a public information officer, staff for communications and the finance department, and salary increases for two employees.

Troiano said he opposed the salary increases for the deputy supervisor and the director of finance because they were too great of increases.

The salary increases were for Deputy Supervisor Joseph Scalero for an annual salary of $190,000, and Director of Finance Paul Wood for an annual salary of $140,000.

In the end, all the employment proposals were approved with the four Republicans securing its passage.

The hiring of the two deputy comptrollers comes seven months after the town’s comptroller resigned unexpectedly and without reason in August.

DeSena blamed the resignation on an unsafe work environment being pulled between the council members.

Town board members and employees blamed it on the supervisor for creating a working environment employees don’t want to work in, citing a trend of multiple town employees resigning.

Other hires Tuesday night included communications staff, staff to support the supervisor’s office, a deputy town attorney and a deputy town clerk.

CSEA Unit #7555 President Tom McDonough thanked the town for hiring these positions.

“We’ve been grossly understaffed since 1992,” McDonough said. “…And the town infrastructure shows that.”

The board also approved the town’s capital plan, which DeSena described as a working document. The plan spans five years and encompasses the town’s capital projects with milestones to provide timeframes of project progress.

McDonough criticized the plan, saying it excluded necessary projects.

The notable exclusions were of the Westbury workyard, which he said has had a temporary trailer without a bathroom, and not sufficient funding for ADA accessibility projects.

The board also unanimously voted for a secondary street name for a portion of New Cassel’s Prospect Avenue to honor local Bishop Lionel Harvey.

Harvey is the bishop of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury in New Cassel, whom members of the congregation called a unifying factor within the community and an advocate for New Cassel’s revitalization.

“This is a man that has unequivocally brought us together politically, biblically, personally, progressively, and he united not only the Baptist faith but all faiths,” Leslie Davis said. “He is a true representation of what it is to be a leader and a role model.”

The street’s secondary name “Bishop Lionel Harvey Way” will span from from Garden Street to Urban Avenue.

In other news, about 50 New Hyde Park residents attended the meeting’s public comment period to express their grievances with alleged squatters in their neighborhood.

Multiple residents spoke about the harassment they have faced by the individuals occupying the foreclosed and boarded-up home, sharing incidents of them yelling at neighbors and threatening violence.

The residents asked the board to help them address the issue, saying that they had been ignored by many of the members and not extended any help.

“We feel very stuck,” resident Jerry Jacob said.

Walsh said that the neighbors have an upcoming court case to address the issue, and that will be the beginning of the resolution. He said the town will then respond appropriately after a court decision is issued.

The Town of North Hempstead board will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Feb. 15.

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