The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to hire a private investigative firm to look into potential conflicts of interest within the town attorney’s office.
LMGI, a corporate and private security investigations firm in Babylon, will conduct the investigations into “two specific matters within the town attorney’s office,” which Town Supervisor Laura Gillen did not elaborate on, at the cost of $125 per hour, plus expenses.
The staff at LMGI includes retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and NYPD officers, and specialize in investigations involving divorce, infidelity, child custody, background checks, asset locating, cheating spouse, armed security and “all discreet and confidential issues.”
Felix Procacci, a resident of Franklin Square, expressed concern that the results of an LMGI investigation may not be made public.
“Will the public get to see what they’ve done?” Procacci asked Gillen. “Or get some idea what the investigation is about? Everything just goes into the wind and disappears.”
Gillen said that she could not speak to past internal investigations in the town, and that was became public after LMGI’s investigations would depend on the investigators’ findings.
Councilman Bruce Blakeman reiterated that Town Attorney Joe Ra supported the measure, and stressed that LMGi has “no political ties to either party,” and is located outside of Hempstead.
“This is an attempt to make sure there isn’t a problem,” Blakeman said.
At the Town Board’s last meeting, Ra said that he was “110 percent” in favor of the town employing an outside investigative firm.
In other news
The board also voted unanimously to lower the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph on Austin Boulevard in Island Park, near a middle school. Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said lawmakers had been working on the initiative for several months, and that it was imperative for the measure to be passed before the summer months, when traffic to and from Long Beach hits its peak.
The board also voted to hire Samantha Levine as the new director of communications in Gillen’s office, at a salary of $160,000, and to eliminate a 10-year “sunset” clause for a tax exemption, and make permanent a property tax break for Cold War-era veterans.
D’Esposito also faced backlash from the public for recently taking a job at the county Board of Elections, alongside his fellow Republican Anthony Santino, who lost his re-election bid in November to Gillen. D’Esposito said that he would remain on the board while taking the $100,000 salaried job at the Board of Elections.
Richard Schurin, of Island Park, which D’Esposito represents, said that even if there was no actual contract of interest, D’Esposito should be aware of the bad optics in him taking the position at the BOE, in what would appear to be a political appointment.
“We know how the BOE works,” Schurin said. “It’s a patronage job; they’re divvied up by the parties. It’s just not right and it sets a very bad precedent. In a way, it’s insulting to all the other public servants who make accommodations in their careers and make great sacrifices.”
D’Esposito did not respond to Schurin, but told the Herald last week, in a phone interview, that other people on the Town Board have full-time jobs outside of their elected positions. “This isn’t different from anyone else who has served,” he said.
The Hempstead Town Board will next meet on March 20 at 10:30 a.m.