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Mayor Tenke not alone in paycheck error

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After holding a news conference outside City Hall at the end July, Glen Cove City Mayor Timothy Tenke called for the resignation of the City Controller Sandra Clarson after her office disclosed documents to Newsday, under a Freedom of Information Law request, which revealed that there had been no health care deductions take out from Tenke’s paychecks since he took office in January 2018. Tenke, a Democrat, stated that he had not been made aware of the deduction error before Newsday published a story about it, claiming that Clarson, who was hired by former Mayor Reggie Spinello, a Republican, tried to undermine him after he fired her last December.

While most of the focus was placed on the mayor’s paychecks, which he offered to write a check to pay for the $4,795 that weren’t deducted, the Herald Gazette filed its own FOIL request to the city and learned that the mayor was not the only employee who experienced the error.

According to a search conducted by the City of Glen Cove, Department of Public Works employee Andres Munoz, a registered Blank (meaning he is not a member of any political party), had the same error on his paychecks. Munoz, who owes the city $1,755.89, not respond to the Herald Gazette’s multiple requests for comment. The city’s payroll department said it would notify Munoz of the error and “make arrangements for timely recovery of [the] funds.”

During the July news conference, Tenke said, that the city’s Human Resources Department had submitted bimonthly reports to Clarson’s office, which detailed all of the deductions that needed to be taken out of paychecks, and that she failed to make them.

“I called for her immediate resignation based on these actions,” Tenke said, “because I’ve lost all confidence in her ability to do her job.”

Clarson, who still serves as controller because no replacement has been hired yet, did not respond to the Herald Gazette’s request for comment as she was outside of the office from Aug. 5 to Aug. 16. The controller’s office would not respond as to why it was only the mayor’s erred paycheck information that was released to Newsday. Although she said she liked to stay away from party politics in Glen Cove, Democratic City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman found it concerning that personnel information was made public to the press without first trying to resolve the issue with the person affected.

“People are calling this a whistleblower case, but if it was whistleblowing, then we would have learned about the second person who this happened to,” Silverman said. “The fact that they named only one person, [Tenke], shows that it was a political action.”

Republican City Councilman Joe Capobianco, who described Tenke’s call for Clarson’s resignation as “inappropriate,” said he was unaware that there was another employee facing the same error. “What’s important is that the city gets its money,” Capobianco said.

During a City Council meeting on July 23, resident Nancy Hawkins expressed her frustration over the incident between Tenke and Clarson, asking the City Council to approve of a new controller so the city could move on. Although Councilman Kevin Maccarone said that they had yet to find a suitable replacement, Hawkins replied that council members, who, with the exception of Silverman, are all Republicans, have stonewalled Tenke on several personnel decisions, preventing him from bringing in people whom he believed could help the city.

Maccarone said that the council does not participate in party politics. Both he and Capobianco suggested that the state audit the city’s Human Resources Department, to which Tenke agreed to after he sent a formal request to State Comptroller Tom DeNapoli to conduct an audit of the controller’s office. DeNapoli’s office received the request on July 23.