Nationwide "Search" Is On For New Commish
Look out Simon, Paula, and Randy, the Town of Hempstead has begun a nationwide search for America's top purveyor of building permits and keeper of the code.
No, its not American Idol or Star Search -- more like Lost meets Abbott & Costello -- but Hempstead Town is going the extra three thousand miles to air out Town Hall and create an aura of transparency.
Yeah, right. The muddy Mississippi is more transparent!
Okay. So the panel of judges will include Town Supervisor Kate Murray (reprising the role of Paula Abdul on methamphetamine), Senior Town Councilman and spokesperson for Joe Mondello and the Nassau County GOP, Tony "they enjoy paying twice as much" Santino ( cast in the mold of Simon Cowell), and, a non-voting judge (who will only be given the names of the contestants after a final decision has been made), Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby [chosen because they needed somebody black.]
If you see Ryan Seacrest hanging around Hempstead Town Hall, you'll know why. Choosing the next Building's Czar is serious business in the Town of Hempstead.
Already, some of the more determined contenders are jockying for center stage. Don Rumsfeld, we understand, is brushing up on Zoning Laws (something about orchestrating an invasion of Elmont to oust the insurgents), and Dick Cheney was seen checking out a book from the Uniondale Library -- Famous Hunting Accidents on the Hempstead Plain.
With a 100+ year history of Town Hall alumni spread across these United States -- multi-pension recipients all -- Supervisor Murray is absolutely hopeful that a new Building's Commish of proper pedigree can be found.
"We have a number of former Republican Committeemen who have retired to Hawaii, Florida, and the Carolinas," said a smiling and confident Kate. "I think we even have a few former patrons of Town government in Fiji, which is why our committee wil begin its search there."
Do you think prospective candidates for Building Commissioner will have to sing, play piano, or otherwise demonstrate a talent?
Surely, knowledge of the Building Code and commitment to accepted practices and procedures won't be prerequisites.
Maybe there will be a swim suit competition, or better still, a ballroom dancing competition. We'd like to see that. [Just watch out for that Al D'Amato fella. He likes to lead and step on feet.]
If there is something disingenuous about the Town of Hempstead talking "ethics," "reform," and "transparency," clearly there is method to the Supervisor's madness.
You see, as part and parcel of the Supervisor's proposed reform agenda, as reported in Newsday, "a new larger building permit sign is being designed for display on properties where work is being done. The brightly colored signs must be placed on a house's front lawn so residents can easily discern whether work is being performed with the necessary permit."
A lawn sign, eh?
You bet! On the back will be the required permit. On the front, "RE-ELECT KATE MURRAY, TOWN SUPERVISOR."
Waste not, want not, at the Town of Hempstead.
Sure, Kate. "Every department periodically can stand a review."
Right. Especially if that review is done internally, by the same folks who haven't taken a broom to the floor of Town Hall for over a century, and by the very same Supervisor who, notwithstanding that she lives on the street where the disgraced ex-Commish was building a McMansion without permits, never noticed that anything was amiss.
The idea is sound. A thorough house-cleaning in Hempstead Town is long overdue.
But please... Foxes auditing the hen house is not what "reform" and "transparency" are all about -- although anyone with one good eye can see through this charade from a mile away.
How about a real audit of the Town of Hempstead -- performed by the new State Comptroller? And, perhaps, an investigation into who knew what and when vis-a-vis the Building Department scandal, undertaken by the Nassau County DA and/or the State Attorney General.
Then, let the nationwide search begin!
[Cell phone users can text in their votes for the new Building Commissioner by dialing 516-489-6000. Phone lines will be open for 2-hours after the show.]
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Reforms for Hempstead building dept.
By Eden Laikin
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray Monday announced a nationwide search to replace the disgraced building commissioner who resigned last week amid revelations he remodeled his house without permits. The supervisor also is implementing a four-part reform plan for the building department to increase transparency and ethical standards.
"If anything good can come out of this very sorry episode," Murray said, "it's that we will be tightening up ethics rules and regulations for town employees, so that the public can be assured that no one receives any special privileges."
Murray said she and her executive staff will choose the next buildings commissioner based on "strong management skills, expert qualifications and personal integrity."
She said they will thoroughly review candidates' references and their personal compliance with building codes local to the areas in which they live.
The four reforms to be implemented center on accountability of town employees and efficiency of operations.
The first reform, which Murray said will be the new commissioner's top priority, will be a "top to bottom" review of departmental operations and policies.
"We're looking at not only how we are issuing permits, but how we are issuing every piece of paper generated by the building department," Murray said. "Every department periodically can stand a review."
Murray said the new commissioner will examine the way in which the building department interacts with villages and the county, and the effectiveness of its technology.
Secondly, permit applications will require the applicant to indicate whether he or she is a town employee.
A town employee, Murray said, would receive heightened scrutiny to make sure he or she did not take any shortcuts or receive any benefits not available to members of the public.
Murray also said building department employees will be required to state that their homes are in compliance with town code. One option is to amend the town's ethics code to request the information on financial disclosure forms.
Lastly, a new larger building permit sign is being designed for display on properties where work is being done. The brightly colored signs must be placed on a house's front lawn so residents can easily discern whether work is being performed with the necessary permit."It just makes it more transparent," Murray said.
The town board must vote on the new commissioner and on any amendments made to the ethics code.
Last week, John Loeffel, who had been a code enforcement officer for 10 years before eventually becoming buildings commissioner in December, resigned after news reports that he added a second story and an illegal apartment to his Levittown home without permits.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.