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Democrat town board members question hiring process, diversity of town appointments

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

The first wave of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s (R) appointments to his new administration has sparked allegations of bias and possible nepotism.

Huntington Town Board voted 3-2 to appoint 11 directors to various town departments at their Feb. 6 meeting. The vote was sharply split along party lines with Democrats Councilman Mark Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Joan Cergol raising objections based on the hiring process, or lack of one.

“We have 11 appointees and 11 white males,” Cuthbertson said. “If we were looking to recruit an executive team for high school sports, this might be a good start. We are looking to run a diverse and dynamic town. I think we need to have at least considered other candidates.”

Lupinacci’s Appointments:

•John Clark
Director, Dept. of Environmental Waste Management
$120,000 annual salary

•Paul Ehrlich
Vice chairman, Planning Board
Unknown compensation

•Leah-Michelle Jefferson
Equal Employment Opportunity officer
$2,000 Stipend

•Matthew Laux
Deputy director, Dept. of Environmental Waste Management
$118,000 annual salary

•Brooke Lupinacci
Liaision officer, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program
No stipend

•Richard McGrath
Member, Zoning Board of Appeals
Compensation unknown

•William Musto
Deputy director, Dept. of Parks and Recreation
$100,000 annual salary

•Joseph Rose
Deputy director, Dept. of Public Safety
$27,880 annual stipend

•Peter Sammis
Director, Dept. of Public Safety
$115,000 annual salary

•Andre Sorrentino
Director, Dept. of General Services
$120,000 annual salary

•Dominick Spada
Deputy director, Dept. of Maritime Services
$60,000 annual salary

•Greg Wagner
Director, Dept. of Parks and Recreation
$115,000 annual salary

•Nick Wieland
Deputy director, Dept. of Information Technology
$100,000 annual salary

The supervisor originally sought to hire or confirm those individuals he selected at the Jan. 23 town board meeting. He pulled the action from the meeting agenda, delaying two weeks after protests from Cuthbertson and Cergol saying they had not had adequate chance to vet the candidates.

“As I’ve considered my vote for today, several key questions have surfaced in my mind,” Cergol said. “Chief among them was who else was up for these jobs? How wide of a net did we cast to fill these jobs? Were there efforts to seek diversity in the hiring process?”

Lupinacci said the candidates’ résumés were  received through the New Direction Transition Team website launched Nov. 30. The applicant were narrowed down by him, members of his transition team including newly elected Councilman Ed Smyth (R), and town employees before being invited in for an interview.

“I think we have an all-star list of appointees that will be heading up each department,” Smyth said.

Cuthbertson pointed out that several of Lupinacci’s appointments are Republican party members who have previously run unsuccessfully for town offices.

Republican John Clark, who lost to Democrat Kevin Orelli for superintendent of highways last November, is the new director of Department of Environmental Waste Management as of Feb. 26. Clark will receive an annual salary of $120,000.

Huntington Bay mayor Dominick Spada, who lost to incumbent Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) in his bid to represent the 18th District, will become the town’s new deputy director of the Department of Maritime Services. Spada will receive $60,000 annually.

Richard McGrath, who ran on the Republican line for town board in Nov. 2003, has been appointed as a member of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals by Lupinacci.

“One of the criteria is that if you ran for public office as a Republican, you have a chance to be a department head,” Cuthbertson said, sarcastically. “It should not be a disqualifier that you were involved in politics. I think people should be involved in politics, and I think there are good people on this list who are involved in politics, but it really lends itself to cynicism about the process.”

The councilman said previous administrations had run advertisements for open positions in The New York Times to ensure a large, diverse pool of applicants.

In addition to the 11 appointments to department heads and town boards, Lupinacci also designated two programs liaisons to existing town employees.

Lupinacci said that despite several conversation and invitations, he had not received any résumés for applicants looking to be considered from either of his Democrat board members. The supervisor said he is looking to fill several town positions in coming months and all are welcome to apply.

The New Direction TransitionTeam website can be found at www.chad2017.com

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