The Town of North Hempstead supervisor’s office says a personnel resolution passed at the first Town Board meeting in 2022 transferred $93,407 worth of payroll from the Yes We Can Center in Westbury to the Department of Services for the Aging, which the office says is the amount needed to cover a political appointee’s transfer from the clerk’s office.
The resolution, passed by the Town Board on a party-line 4-3 vote with Democrats in the majority, moved nine Democratic political appointees from the office of the supervisor and town clerk to noncompetitive and union jobs, totaling about $800,000 worth of transfers.
The specific transfer involves an employee who has been transferred from deputy town clerk to secretary to the commissioner of the Department of Services for the Aging, the supervisor’s office says.
Brian Devine, director of communications for the supervisor’s office, said the resolution is a misuse of funds.
“It’s appalling that the councilmembers who approved this resolution feel that this budgeted payroll is better served protecting a political appointee than helping the residents who utilize the Yes We Can Center and all its great programs and services,” Devine said in a statement to Blank Slate Media.
Also included in the personnel resolution is a transfer of two additional employees for the center, coming over from the supervisor’s office and the aging services department, respectively, increasing its staffing in the Department of Parks and Tecreation.
Gordon Tepper, director of communications for the Town Board, disputed the claims made by the supervisor’s office.
“The budget transfers from last Thursday’s meeting enabled the town to move forward with a realignment that allowed the supervisor to bring on her handpicked staff,” Tepper told Blank Slate Media. “The town did not use contingency funds or appropriations of reserves. We simply adjusted operational savings. The transfers had a net-zero impact on the budget, resulting in absolutely no additional cost to taxpayers.”
Tepper also said that the Yes We Can Community Center, which has made recent improvements to community, leadership and safety development, did not suffer any funding loss.
“There were absolutely no cuts made to the Yes We Can Community Center,” he said. “The services have actually been expanded.”
Tom McDonough, the safety coordinator for North Hempstead’s Civil Service Employees Association Unit 7555, questioned the intention of the resolution and where money was coming from.
“I can rip this budget apart if I wanted to, but I won’t,” he said at the Jan. 6 meeting. “I find it amazing that we were able to find funds to support these positions but we haven’t been able to replace several union positions within the past couple of years.”
McDonough added that several town departments, including parks and recreation, are severely understaffed.
Another position change that drew comments from Republicans was appointing a chief research assistant to the Town Board.
According to the resolution, Jeanine Dillon, the former chief of staff to Judi Bosworth during her time as supervisor, will take the position at a salary of $157,890.
Upon her hiring in 2018, Dillon earned $135,000 in her previous job.
“The Town Board has never had a chief research assistant at $160,000,” DeSena, a Democrat who was elected in November on the Republican line, said during the discussion on the resolution. “In the past, the Town Board has had one legislative aide per councilperson. That’s all you get.”
The new position is one of many that were passed along with the resolution. In the supervisor’s office, new positions for her department include special counsel, a director of finance and a director of communications.
Democrat Robert Troiano Jr., who was elected to a second stint on the Town Board in November, said unforeseen circumstances can bring changes to the budget, which was approved in October under Bosworth.
Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, a Democrat, said the transfers were to maintain continuity.
“With a new supervisor taking office, it is important to help that person get acclimated to the new role and to provide much-needed support,” Lurvey said. “The realignment of some positions helps ensure a smooth transition. It acknowledges the critical importance of institutional knowledge and government experience possessed by individuals in key leadership positions. It also allows the new supervisor to bring in her own people to dedicated positions that will report directly to her.”
Devine said that the resolution is just playing politics.
“It’s irresponsible of the councilmembers to pass this resolution and essentially play politics with the public’s purse strings as they fight tooth and nail to protect these political appointees that previously comprised the bloated, top-heavy management of the Town of North Hempstead,” he said.
A previous version of this article has been updated.