Diane Madden, an animal rights activist from East Meadow, plans to enter the race for Town of Hempstead supervisor as a third-party candidate in November.
Madden received a unanimous nomination to run on the Libertarian ticket against Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, a Republican from Valley Stream.
Several of Madden’s friends and fellow activists sought to petition to get her name on the ballot “in any way possible,” she said. Then the Nassau County Libertarian party approached her and, after what she called a “thorough vetting process,” she accepted its nomination.
Madden, 59, who is a registered Independent, recently spoke with the Herald about her intention to run on her record of civic engagement, “representing the public, not a party,” she said.
In 2013, she ran for the seat in the town’s Sixth Councilmatic District against Republican Incumbent Gary Hudes and was endorsed by the Democrats, but lost to Hudes, who spent 17 years on the Town Board before retiring in 2017.
“I know that, this time, running, not being endorsed by either the Democrats or the Republicans, it would be likely that they would work very hard to get me off the ballot,” Madden said. “When the Libertarians voted me in . . . I felt that I needed to move forward based on both parties’ failures to keep their word.”
She has attended town meetings for 18 years, and sought reform at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. “Although my passion has been to protect the underdog, the animals at the shelter, I’ve sat at enough town meetings to observe how mistreated and cheated the taxpayers are, Madden said, describing the shelter as a “microcosm” of the town’s “wasteful spending and mismanagement.”
She cited Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s recently released audit of the shelter, which capped a three-year-long investigation and detailed 56 complaints about misused funds, improper vendor contracts and no-show jobs. In addition, there were more than a dozen allegations of animal mistreatment, unnecessary killings and cover-ups of such conduct using political connections.
Madden has long urged the Town Board to bring in independent animal experts, and has filed two lawsuits against the board for its handling of the shelter’s operations, settling each time. She said that Schnirman’s audit confirmed her fears about the facility.
If elected, Madden said, she would work to prevent political patronage and only hire outside experts for town jobs. Furthermore, she said, she would call for the resignation of town officials she believes perpetuated the mismanagement detailed in Schnirman’s audit, including Town Attorney Joseph Ra.
“Jack Schnirman publicly admits that he was obstructed at every turn,” Madden said, referring to a 2017 State Supreme Court ruling that limited the comptroller’s investigation of the agency to purely fiscal matters, which Gillen has appealed. Schnirman has said he was blocked from viewing organizational charts and personnel records, and was not permitted to visit the shelter without permission from the town.
“Those doors should be swung open,” Madden said. “They’re running out of other people’s money. And the animal shelter is just one example of that.”
Madden was once a supporter of Gillen, who promised reform at the shelter before she was elected, but the supervisor “failed to keep those promises” by hiring two shelter employees who are politically connected to town Democrats, Madden said.
Asked about her accusations, Mike Fricchione, a spokesman for Gillen, said, “Many changes recommended in the audit have been implemented, and further changes from that audit are currently being implemented.”
Regarding allegations of patronage, Fricchione said that staffing decisions are not under the “purview” of the supervisor, but made by the Town Board as a whole. He added that Gillen has overseen the town’s lowest staffing budget “in modern town history.”
Clavin and Ra declined to comment on Madden’s run for supervisor.