Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00
For 10 years now, residents of the Town of Hempstead have been receiving numerous town mailings (about 25 per year) often touting the accomplishments of our Town Supervisor, Kate Murray. One accomplishment, she can’t help but mention (over and over) is her fiscal record.
It is long past due that town residents have a factual account of her (Supervisor Murray’s) actual fiscal record. Since 2003, when Supervisor Murray was appointed, the property tax levy has increased from $182.528 to $264.49 million (or 44.9 percent), bond debt increased from $238 to $317.35 million (or 33 percent), and the town has had three consecutive years (2010 to 2012) of deficits totaling $36 million. Why hasn’t any of these facts showed up in a Kate Murray’s mailings?
Supervisor Murray always claims she cares so much about town residents, but between 2006 and 2009, while Charles and Michael Scarlatta took $1 million in compensation out of Oceanside’s Sanitary District 7, Supervisor Murray, who could have voted against those compensation increases, did nothing!
She, along with the rest of the town board voted for the increases, essentially robbing Sanitary District 7 residents, and made statements to the press that the town had no control. This was not true. At the very least, she could have opened her mouth and told residents in one of her more than 20 yearly mailings. Instead, she chose to keep quite, and deny responsibility.
In November 2012, the state comptroller’s audit of the Hempstead Animal Shelter discovered unaccounted for funds and high operational costs. This report verified what I had found in my own investigation, a year earlier (in 2011).
In the town’s 2014 budget, there are additional anomalies, that Supervisor Murray would not explain. For example, there are three graphic artists budgeted at a total cost of $290,151 and three engineering helpers budgeted at a cost of $234,199. I requested the names and salaries of these employees via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request on Sept. 5 of this year, and still haven’t received the data. Last year I filed an ethics complaint against two town attorneys for not complying with FOIL. To date this file remains empty, and all I received is a letter from the town’s ethics officer, Susan Jacobs, that there was no wrong doing. Her letter did not include any explanation, or any details of the investigation. After 16 months of investigation, there was no evidence collected to substantiate the results of the investigation.
Reforming town government requires transparency. Town board meetings need to be broadcast online, and all town contracts need to be published online, along with their budgeted cost, the day after they are ratified. There needs to be accountability.
I have attended every town board meeting since Aug 2010 and can say with complete certainty that Supervisor Murray opposes any form of transparency that will give residents a comprehensive understanding of how town government spends taxpayer money.
open government advocate and candidate for Hempstead Town Supervisor