Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin and the town board approved 30 new hires and pay raises in a public board meeting March 31, which has drawn sharp criticism from his predecessor..
Former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen wrote a letter to the editor published in The Island Now last week in which she accused Clavin and board members of “gift[ing] $770,000 in gratuitous promotions, raises and new jobs for party favorites” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As unemployment in New York soars 360 percent and more than 10 million Americans are suddenly jobless with no income or health insurance, the last week of March was Christmastime in Hempstead,” she wrote.
“As approximately 450,000 New Yorkers lined up for initial unemployment assistance, Clavin’s cronies, Hempstead GOP club leaders and their kids lined up at town hall to collect unbudgeted raises and promotions. This is not only morally repugnant, it is wildly irresponsible.”
Among the promotions was the appointment of Antonio Fanizzi, previously highway maintenance crew chief, to the position of Department of Highways Deputy Commissioner with a salary of $138,000. Stephen Brown, counsel to the receiver of taxes, got a pay increase to $96,580. The board increased the salary of Paula Gildersleeve, clerk in the Department of Human Resources, to $97,431. Chrisopher Maloney’s title was changed from “park supervisor II” to “park maintenance supervisor,” and he received a pay raise to $122,249.
“The overriding consideration in Hempstead Town’s budgeting policies is efficiency and cost effectiveness,” Town of Hempstead spokesman Greg Blower told Blank Slate Media Tuesday. “When he took office, Supervisor Clavin cut $1 million from the supervisor’s payroll and instituted an early retirement program to ensure that the workforce is as lean and as efficient as possible. To date, these two initiatives have saved the Town over $4 million and will far outweigh the costs of the small number of replacement hires that may become necessary.
“In fact,” he continued, “the administration has been proactive in not placing new individuals, who have been the subject of personnel actions, at this time.”
Gillen commented in her letter that no one raised an objection to the new hires and pay increases during the meeting.
“There was no mention of how this might ultimately harm the unconnected rank-and-file. (The union had no objection; a leader got a raise!),” she said.
Labor crew chief Eric Tomeo received a new title and a pay increase to $100,445. A second labor crew chief, Miguel Serrano, was promoted and granted a salary of $91,830.
“There has been one exception to this policy due to a requirement of a pending union settlement,” Blower said.
Gillen also criticized the board’s vote to reduce Hempstead’s fund balance, which she said is intended to reserve “rainy-day” monies, by more than 50 percent.
“Years of Nassau GOP patronage and irresponsible hiring practices, aggravated further by last week’s largess, have created a financial structure where payroll and related costs exceed 60 percent of the town’s budget,” she said. “Couple this with the town’s debt burden, the new fund balance will not be sufficient to cover just two months of required payroll and debt service—not to mention utilities and other important expenses.”
Blower said that the board will factor the evolving circumstances surrounding the coronavirus into its personnel decisions.
“We are focused on community health while we look toward reopening more of our government’s services,” he said.