In an effort to combat corruption throughout the departments in Hempstead Town, Supervisor Laura Gillen announced she will propose legislation at the November 16 Town Board meeting that would ban department heads from holding leadership positions in local political clubs and committees.
Currently, approximately half of the town’s department heads, which include commissioners, deputy commissioners, directors, and deputy directors, hold positions of power and influence in over a dozen Republican political clubs and party committees while simultaneously supervising workers who are also part of the same political clubs and organizations.
“This system does little to ensure that government operates fairly and effectively, especially when there’s the perception that one’s next promotion or raise has to do with service towards a party, instead of the taxpaying people of this town,” Gillen said. “This leads to an erosion of public confidence and undermines our government.”
This proposal does not restrict any employee’s right to be involved in a political party club or serve in a non-leadership position such as committee person. Instead, it restricts those who supervise or oversee others from holding high-level positions of power in political parties, such as political club leaders, presidents, party chairs, executive leaders, and the like.
The impetus for this legislation stems from several whistleblower complaints from town employees who have reported the existence of a “pay-to-play” operation for obtaining raises and promotions in exchange for political work. A similar proposal was implemented in the Town of Onondaga in upstate New York and was upheld by the State Supreme Court, writing it’s important to ensure “local government employees do not become a powerful political machine controlled by incumbent officials.”
“I implore my colleagues on the town board to do the right thing and put an end to the pay-to-play practices that have plagued this town for generations,” Gillen said.
“It’s sad that we need this piece of legislation to begin with,” said Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana. “Unfortunately, Republican corruption in the town is so ingrained, this is the only way.”