The Huntington Town Board reinstated, created and abolished several jobs at Tuesday’s town board meeting, again drawing criticisim from some members of the board over patronage and transparency.
The reshuffling included reinstating positions with salaries totaling $284,920, creating $272,413 in new jobs and abolishing $268,165 in positions.
According to town documents, $289,168 will be taken out of contingency to help fund newly created jobs.
The changes were listed in two resolutions sponsored by Republican Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. Both resolutions were approved in a 3-2 vote, with board members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol, both Democrats, voting no.
“The fiscal impact of this is much more than those numbers indicate,” Cuthbertson said Wednesday. “Also the total lack of transparency in this hiring process is appalling given how they campaigned on a platform of 'transparency' and how Chad emphasized it in his inaugural address.”
Cuthbertson criticized Lupinacci in February when the supervisor appointed 11 white men to key positions. At Tuesday’s meeting, Cuthbertson called the latest round of hiring an opportunity for former losing Republican candidates and those loyal to the party to get patronage jobs.
"Tonight we are seeing chapter two of the Republican patronage playbook at work," he said.
Lupinacci said Wednesday he stands by the hires that were selected based on experience, community service and the attributes they would bring to the town.
“Councilman Cuthbertson is not taking into consideration that the people being hired in some positions are coming at a lower price than the people being replaced and some positions have been abolished," Lupinacci said.
Deputy Town Attorney Dan Martin, a former judge, will oversee the building department as the newly named director of engineering services at $146,652 a year, replacing Joe Cline, who has been demoted to be the department’s deputy. He will retain his $138,375 salary. Martin was appointed deputy town attorney in February at the same salary.
Assistant Town Attorney Thelma Neira will get a $5,000 stipend to serve as acting deputy town attorney after the deputy job was abolished.
Lupinacci created 14 new positions, many of which do not use the civil service test as criteria for hiring.
One of the newly created full-time positions in the information technology department will go to Robert Nora, the son of Town Board member Ed Smyth’s law partner. Smyth said Wednesday that Nora, who has been working for the town part-time for about three months, is qualified.
Also hired Tuesday was Carmen Kasper, a Hispanic woman, as director of human services at $115,000 annually. Jacqueline Harris, who is black, was named the deputy director of human services, at $30,000 a year. Harris recently retired from the South Huntington School District as an assistant superintendent.
Losing their jobs are Deputy Director of Engineering Services Jake Turner, Deputy Director of Planning Rob Reichert and Director of Cultural Affairs John Coraor.
Other positions filled include the deputy director of transportation, two deputy directors of general services and a deputy director of planning.
Cergol criticized the speed of the hiring process, saying a resolution presented to her Friday for review was revamped by early Tuesday, while the other resolution was not available to her until Tuesday.
"Where is the transparency promised?" she asked during the meeting. "More importantly what contingency funding from vacated positions has been forsaken to make way for these newly created civil service exempt positions."
By Deborah S. Morris