Friday, September 02, 2005

A Family Affair At Hempstead Town Hall

Party And Family Ties Fill Hundred Of Posts In TOH; Cost To Taxpayers of $36 Million Plus

When we said that “everyone and her brother has a patronage job at Town Hall,” little did we realize just how prophetic this would be. Not only patronage, but blatant nepotism - all on the taxpayers' dime!

Sure, everyone knows that the Town of Hempstead is the patronage capital of the world, where positions - and salaries - are doled out, not based on merit, or even on actually showing up for work, but rather, on who you know and what political party you are registered to.

Okay, the Nassau County GOP does not have a monopoly on patronage, by any means. You can find it at the County, the State, and even the Federal level. Still, when 323 people owe their jobs in Town government to their roles as Republican Committeemen, and countless others hold positions based solely on party or familial affiliation - at a cost to the taxpayers of some $36 million per year - there is something terribly awry.
  • Of the 2,100 total employees in the Town of Hempstead, 323 persons, or 15.4 percent, are Republican committeemen.
  • Together, the 323 committeemen received more than $24.4 million in salary (not including benefits) from the Town of Hempstead, equaling 18 percent of the $136.5 million in total salary budgeted in 2004.
  • The average salary of the 323 committeemen was more than $75,000 annually.
  • Departments most heavily influenced by this patronage included Parks & Recreation (84 committeemen-employees), the Highway Department (40 committeemen-employees) and Sanitation (34 committeemen-employees).

Add to this list- compiled from Town of Hempstead Resolution #1, 2004 - hundreds of others (from lifeguards at Town pools, to the stealth clean-up crews, to the seasonal employees who work at the Fee Booths at the Town beaches handing out Murray campaign literature), and you’ve got a cottage industry costing Town of Hempstead taxpayers in excess of $36 million per year. Now we know where that phantom "surplus" disappeared to!

And don’t forget the likes of displaced politicos previously voted out of office elsewhere, and the wife of at least one former U.S. Senator who also graces the payroll. Not to mention those who draw a salary from the Town proper while also taking a salary or stipend from one of the Town's Special Districts. Maybe that's what they mean by "Special!" For goodness sake – there's enough pork doled out as patronage at Town Hall to operate at least another couple of Sanitary Districts (whose Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, General Counsels, and Assistants to the Assistants don't make this list either, the Town having no "control" over their hiring)!

Never mind that Kate Murray’s dad Norman is on the Town Legal Department’s payroll at $115,219, and her brother Terrence, to boot, as a “Physical Conditioning Specialist” for the Parks Department, at a salary $62,000 a year. [What does Terrence do, anyway, offer personal training to the weeds?]. The patronage and cronyism, blossoming for nearly a century at Town Hall, has become a culture unto itself, with an aggregate cost to the taxpayers calculated in the billions of dollars.

Kate Murray, in her capacity as Town Supervisor, has refused to comment on this glaring, almost transparent abuse. [A transparency that snubs its nose at every taxpayer, reflecting upon every one of us because we know this abuse goes on, and yet, we refuse to do a darn thing about it!]

Well, we will comment. We know political patronage and party favoritism exists. We’ve lived with it and have borne its costs. We’ve accepted it as a way of life. Our quality of life in America's largest township has suffered immeasurably because of it. The question is, “How long will we continue to condone the unconscionable practice of employment by patronage and party affiliation rather than by merit and the willingness to work?”

Time for the people to take back Town Hall? We think so. Assuming, of course, that there are any among us who are not on the Town payroll or related to someone who is!

10 comments:

  1. Sad but true. If you are not a registered Republican in Hempstead Town - or married to one - you are a persona non grata. Don't look for help. Don't ask for assistance. And certainly, don't count on a Town job, no matter how qualified you may be!

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  2. Very nice once again the Community Alliance threw it's favorite mouthpiece fires another shot at the Town of Hempstead.

    But you know what I would like to see is the same list be posted from the Nassau County employment roster if you want to be fair and play a "Non-Partisan" game let's compare what the County shells out in annually?

    You bark at all of these salaries what exactly do these employees do and how long have they worked for the TOH?

    Better yet why don't you post your job, what you do and what your salary is?

    You people make me sick!!!!

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  3. Seems you forgot to read all of Harvey's comments on the topic of patronage. He said HE WOULD dole out patronage jobs....just not as many.(I'm sure this was merely an oversight)

    So he scolds the town for patronage, and then says he would do it himself. And if you believe he would LIMIT it, I have a lake for sale for you in West Hempstead.

    Still, thee town jobs don't seem to pay as much as the seasonal positions in Nassau County, where people are receiving $75 per hours as seasonal clerks, and some don't even show up to work.

    Well, at least the town employees are living in Nassau and paying taxes here, unlike the 100+ full timers with Nassau County who live elsewhere.

    If the Community Alliance is to have any credibility, it has to point out waste not only in the town, but also in other levels of government.

    Only once in a while do you criticize Nassau County(rare) which is 23% of you property taxes. I didn't see a blog last week when yet another County employee was arrested for fraud, and the County administartion admitted the covered it up and did not report the crime to the DA's office.

    Nor did I see any blogs critical of Harvey Levinson, who stated he would take care of illegal housing by changing it from residential to commercial, when in 2 years he has only done it to two(2) properties in Elmont. He has been informed of dozens,and he has done it to two.

    If you want critcize the Town and Kate Murray, you have the right and we see you do it.

    How can a community group upset about taxes and waste not stand up and utter a word when fraud is committed in our local government with the stealing of our tax dollars?

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  4. Why do you keep picking on West Hempstead, Mr. Anonymous? If this Blog makes you "sick," feel free not to read it. Better yet, post a Blog of your own.

    Could it be that The Community Alliance has made a conscious decision to carefully pick a battle that can be won? A battle that must be won if we are going to have any hope of improving our quality of life.

    After all, you don't get more "local" than Town government, and no level of government so impacts upon our everyday lives as does the Town.

    The County has its patronage (this Blog made obvious note, and offered no excuse). Indeed, many at the County who hold their patronage positions are throw-backs to the Gulotta regime - Civil Servants who can't be fired.

    There are abuses - time sheets, and otherwise - and conduct unbecoming. Who will bring an end to it at the County, Greg Peterson?

    These abuses are wrong whenever and wherever they occur. They should not be condoned at the County, Town, or any place else. At the Town of Hempstead, this cronyism is over the top. The numbers represent sheer madness. And every taxpayer who is not so endowed with a piece of the Town pie lining his pocket is getting pickpocketed as a result.

    At least Suozzi gives lip service where wrongs have been committed. Murray, as usual, has "no comment." Silence is acquiescence. In this case, it is nothing short of an affirmation of the devil may care attitude of the Town clowns - taking care of their own while the rest of us are left to pick up the tab.

    I agree that Harvey Levinson is no cure-all for the problems of Hempstead Town. Still, short of leveling this place and starting from scratch, his election as Supervisor - a new face with new ideas - is a start. Any change from the status quo has to be better than staying the course.

    Anyway, with all the patronage at Town Hall, one would think they'd hire more than 8 Building Inspectors for the entire township. Then again, we assume, in the first instance, that, at Town Hall, one would think...

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  5. If I may throw my two cents in, I think Mr. Levinson is choosing a very difficult and rarely effective line of attack. Patronage is an unfortunate but integral part of the American political system - it has been since the founding of this country. Even 'honest' Abe Lincoln, purportedly among the most genuine and sincere politician in our history, ran an administration that was rife with patronage appointments, many of which Lincoln personally doled out. (McClellan used the issue to hammer away at Lincoln in the 1864 election, but we know how far that got him).

    In the Newsday article about this issue a couple days ago, Levinson conceeded that the problem isn't really about patronage, but about unqualified people being appointed to government jobs. Well, if that's the case, why make such big deal about it, if not merely to score some cheap political points with voters? Why not stick with the issue of whether these appointments are qualified, and if they're not, tell us why Kate Murray is specifically responsible for the screw up. Do we really care if the person is a good friend of Kate Murray so long as that person is doing a good job?

    Harvey Levinson has many good ideas to fix the Town's current problems. From exposing a completely superfluous level of government in our sanitation districts to looking at creative ways to handle out of control school property taxes, Levinson has demsrated his ability to think outside of the box, outside of the status quo. Someone should tell Mr. Levinson to stick with those real issues that matter in our town rather than bottom-feeding off peripheral issues that have little traction with voters.

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  6. Even Levinson admits that there will be patronage in his administration. At least he's open and realistic about it, not mum like Ms. Murray.

    Too bad the patronage issue does not resonate with voters. [One wonders just what does hit the mark. Outrageous property taxes? Nothing. Unnecessary Special Districts? Barely a whimper. Elections for Commissioners held on the Sabbath? So what?]

    While appointing one's friends and loyalists is, for better or for worse, part and parcel of the American political system, what we have here at Hempstead Town Hall is nothing short of unconscionable. And when the price tag is marked up in the millions of dollars - all of it coming out of the pockets of already stretched taxpayers - we'd better start giving these "peripheral issues" greater consideration before we step into the voting booth. For most of us, the bank is broken - and adding even one more "committeeman" to the payroll should, by all reason, be the proverbial last straw.

    Look, no one believes that Levinson can come in here - the new Sheriff in Town - and single-handedly change that which has fomented (and soured) for nearly a century. Still, with a new Captain at the helm, at the very least we'll see this place get a much needed cleaning. Every house - especially the people's house - should get cleaned out once every 100 years or so!

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  7. If Levinson can give specific examples of how Murray's patronage is hurting the Town, he should take that approach. E.g. Is there reason to believe that Katuria D'amato is doing a bad job, or that her relative lack of experience has shown? Should Kate Murray have fired her father when she took office because she caught him dozing off on the job or something like that?

    But to simply throw out numbers that mean absolutely nothing is really a bad tactic, in my opinion. I don't claim to be an expert in these matters, but for all I know, a 15% rate of patronage appointments may be a low percentage for a typical American government.

    Let Levinson heed his own advice - it's not about the the patronage per se. Patronage is not an evil in-and-of-itself. Everyone engages in it for better or worse. I would even argue that good politicians use such appointments and political connections to accomplish all the more during their tenure. That's why such a complaint never really resonates with voters.

    P.s. I'll take back everything I said and actively campaign for Levinson in exchange for an office at Town Hall after November. :-)j/k

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  8. You might want to add in mass mailings (a/k/a "Murraygrams") at the taxpayers' expense as just one more issue that may or may not resonate with voters in the TOH.

    Funny thing. Here is a Town, threatened with destruction by a giant meteor about to impact - with Hempstead Town Hall as ground zero - and all residents can think to ask is, "Honey, did you remember to put the recycling bin at the curb?"

    This Blog is but a Blog. An almost random meandering through thoughts and processes; saying much, yielding untold result. The only one who can actually make a difference - when all is said, if still far from done - is YOU!

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  9. Well now that I have setup an account; now I can post just like anyone else here.

    Guess the Community Alliance does not like anyone posting anonymously huh?

    If not then why has this BLOGSPOT removed the anonymous posting option?

    Too many anonymous people responding; guess you don't like hearing negative remarks against your posting?

    I personally think that what you are doing is disgusting - to make accusations against the TOH for what you believe to be "patronage" jobs without anything to back the accusation up with and then you have the nerve to send out you rantings with a list of TOH employees with their names, position & salaries?

    I know I know it's a matter of public record and it's within your right to post but maybe you should think about the employees as well -

    How many years have they held these jobs?

    How did they start out working for the TOH and in what capacity?

    These position they hold what do they actually do?

    This is nothing more than what the other posters have said already it is nothing more than a fruitless attempt to demonize the TOH once again.

    What will Harvey Levinson do in the TOH?

    He has already stated that he wants to hire I believe an additional 20 Building inspectors and if so the taxpayers better be ready to see an increase in those salaries somewhere in the area of yets estimate say $1,000,000.00 because what do you think 20 new building inspectors would cost?

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    ReplyDelete