For the third time in recent months, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen tried to open discussion on Tuesday on how the Town Board should fill vacancies when seats open up outside the election season, and for a third — and possibly final — time, Republican members blocked discussion on the subject.
Levittown Republican Dennis Dunne — who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board last year (see box) — moved that Gillen’s motion to call a public hearing on special elections be “postponed indefinitely.”
The legislation — for which Gillen wanted to call a Sept. 4 public hearing — would be a significant change in the way the town conducts business, with five of the seven members of the Republican-majority board having been appointed to their positions when they first assumed office.
Dunne and fellow Republicans Ed Ambrosino, Erin King Sweeney, Bruce Blakeman and Anthony D’Esposito also voted against allowing the public to speak before their vote to table the motion.
Board members even went a step further, passing a change to the board’s procedures that will prevent Gillen from bringing up special elections again. Under the new rule, items that have been tabled will be considered postponed indefinitely, and can only be resurrected by a majority vote of the board. This effectively guaranteed that special elections will not be discussed again until new council members join the board and change the procedure.
Gillen called the votes “Politburo politics” aimed at hamstringing her power as a Democratic supervisor, and a number of residents also spoke up, demanding that the board give the motion an up or down vote.
Susan Ryan, of Point Lookout, told board members during the public-comment period— at the end of the meeting, after the board had decided the matter — that she had waited for hours to speak about the issue before it was tabled.
“This is a democracy,” Ryan said, addressing the Republicans. “Whether you like it or not, Laura Gillen was elected . . . Dorothy Goosby, you were voted in, and so was Laura. The rest of you were part of the Republican theater system, where you don’t learn to play well with others. You’ve had your own way for so long you seem to have no respect for bipartisan government.”
“People in the town should be able to vote for their representatives,” she added.
The most recent appointee was Dunne. He was picked last year to succeed fellow Levittown Republican Gary Hudes, who stepped down for personal reasons.
Dunne said in a statement on May 3 that he was concerned about the cost of holding special elections.
Goosby, Gillen’s only fellow Democrat on the board, has on several occasions made it clear that she does not approve of appointments. In 2015, when King Sweeney and Blakeman were appointed, Goosby asked the board to table their appointments and call a special election.
On Tuesday, she again repeated her objection to the board’s continued blocking of debate on special elections. “It’s not the first time,” Goosby said. “I’ve had the same motion for more than 10 folks who’ve been placed on this board.”
Gillen said that the board’s procedures had “never been an issue until now, when there is a Democratic supervisor.”
“All the council members who decided to table this resolution were appointed to their jobs,” she added. “This strikes me as a self-serving, cowardly act that only seeks to preserve the status quo, instead of moving this town out of the shadows and into the sunlight, where it belongs.”
Although Republican members did not explain their votes on either issue on Tuesday, King Sweeney later submitted a statement on behalf of the entire majority Tuesday (see box).