Gillen’s wishes for installation dismissed
These days, whatever gets decided by the Town of Hempstead Board of Trustees is sure to make someone—or many people—unhappy.
At the Nov. 28 board meeting, a resolution was introduced to amend the calendar to remove the Jan. 2, 2018 meeting from the schedule. Town of Hempstead Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen was to be installed that day, along with four other elected officials. The 10 a.m. meeting, under the proposed amendment, would just be a ceremonial one with no agenda items.
Instead, the first regular meeting will be held Jan. 9 at 7 p.m., only one of four in 2018 slated in the evening.
Several speakers questioned the change.
Supervisor Anthony Santino called on Town Attorney Joseph Ra, who said that with the swearing-in, the change was necessary “so as to not mislead the public to think that they were coming to a regular town board meeting.”
Ra said the town had heard complaints after the last two induction ceremonies from residents who said that they had to sit and listen to speeches after the regular agenda was canceled. Ra emphasized again that the amendment was to avoid “misleading the public.”
Rory Gordon of Hauppauge asked if the installation was by invitation only.
After some back and forth over whether the meeting pavilion could hold the invited family and friends as well as the public, Santino called on Ra, who said, “the five elected officials could send out invitations, and that generally takes up the [entire meeting] room.”
Ra went on to say that an overflow crowd could be accommodated in adjoining spaces, with video monitors carrying the proceedings.
Gillen was “represented” by Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who relayed her wishes that the regular meeting be held, but at 7 p.m. instead of the slated 10 a.m. Gillen asked that a another ceremony be held that day, “separate and apart from the meeting…I wanted to let you know that this was her request and we should adhere to it.”
Later, Blakeman introduced an amendment to the resolution, calling for the elected officials (in addition to Gillen, Town Clerk-elect Sylvia Cabana, and incumbent councilmembers Dennis Dunne Sr., Anthony D’Esposito and Dorothy Goosby) to be sworn in on Jan. 2 at 2:30 p.m. at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach, and the regular board meeting to follow a 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
“We should give deference to the new supervisor,” said Blakeman, a Republican stalwart who shocked observers by endorsing Gillen. “And having the first meeting at night sets a tone she would like to set for the new administration. Camp Anchor, a much larger facility, can accommodate the invited guests and general public.”
Blakeman called the camp “one of the finest programs in the United States that we can all be proud of…that’s my motion” to applause.
His motion was seconded by Erin King Sweeney, who has backed Blakeman on most legislative proposals. The two have frequently stood alone against the rest of the board.
Goosby, the lone Democrat on the board who was also named to Gillen’s transition team, objected, saying that the meetings are traditionally held in the mornings and “that’s what I’m accustomed to and that’s what the town has always done.”
Goosby added, “I’m in disagreement with [Gillen] because I want [the installation] at 10 o’clock so I could continue with my plans for myself, with my family and friends.”
D’Esposito commented, “I would be happy and I look forward to joining with Supervisor-elect Gillen at Camp Anchor, but I will support the resolution that’s at hand,” and moments later added, “the original”—and not Blakeman’s amended one.
In response to Goosby’s comments that evening, Gillen issued the following statement: “While I too would love to be celebrating with my family and friends, we were elected by the people to do their business, and that is exactly what we should be doing on January 2nd at the regularly scheduled board meeting. Under my administration, Town Hall is going to see daylight for the first time in over 100 years, and you better believe that means every taxpaying citizen who we are supposed to serve is invited to the town’s inauguration.”
Blakeman’s amendment was rejected 5-2, with only King Sweeney joining him.
During public comment, Valerie Lamp of Baldwin took issue with the town’s meeting schedule change.
“To me, it looks like last-minute shenanigans. It looks like you’re trying to take away a tradition and a right,” she charged. “We’re looking for bipartisanship. We have a new incoming clerk and supervisor. Let them have their moment. You have this opportunity to leave with grace and dignity and class.”
Lamp was skeptical that there would be a huge rush of people attending the ceremony.
“Don’t insult everybody’s intelligence by saying that you have a sudden concern for the people of the Town of Hempstead,” Lamp concluded.