The Town of Hempstead Board voted unanimously to hire Supervisor Laura Gillen’s top staff members during the Democrat’s first meeting in charge on Tuesday night.
Gillen’s staff includes Jim LaCurruba, former director of operations in the City of Long Beach, who will serve as her chief of staff with a salary of $175,000.
Adam Haber, an East Hills resident and former director of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, will serve as one of three executive assistants. Haber’s responsibilities will be economic development and government efficiency. He will be paid $130,000.
During the meeting, which was almost four hours long, Gillen responded to residents’ concerns about staff members with outside jobs and said that all employees will be devoted to the town.
In a 6-1 vote, highly contested among residents, the board approved the transfer of former Town Clerk Nasrin Ahmad to a new position as deputy commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, where she will make $129,500 a year.
Gillen was the only member to vote no.
“I do not support this move,” Gillen said. “She was moved to a place where they thought her services would be valuable and when they had no money they’re moving her someplace else.”
Ahmad was originally supposed to be transferred to the Department of Occupational Resources, according to a vote at former Supervisor Anthony Santino’s last meeting in December along with 191 other personnel changes.
Several board members, including Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, said they voted yes because Ahmad is qualified for the position.
“There’s a lot of things that have changed, but not everything that happened before was bad,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney added that just because someone was around from a couple of years ago, and “we’re trying to keep her, that’s not a bad thing.”
Many residents said that it isn’t Ahmad herself they’re upset by, it’s the process that went into her being chosen, noting that it wasn’t even the position she was initially transferred to.
Deputy Supervisor Bruce Blakeman voted no on Ahmad’s initial transfer along with the 191 others.
As a fiscally conservative Republican, he said, he had initial reservations about the appointment’s impact on the taxpayers.
He added that one reason he voted no at the prior meeting was because of the hastiness of the decision. He said that after having more time to review it, Ahmad is a good fit for this position.
He added that Ahmad is a good role model for Muslim Americans.
Residents said the town should be hiring people because of their skills, not political affiliation.
Hiring the most talented and qualified candidates was a campaign promise of Gillen.
Gillen said she voted no, not based on Ahmad’s character or qualifications, but because of the way the decision was made.