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

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. File 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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Local state of the art facility is a care model that meets the needs of a growing older population

The most pressing problem Baby Boomers face today, when they go to work, is the daily care of their minimally impaired parent. A recent study found that approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the previous 12 months, and 85% of caregivers are relatives of the care recipient.*

When caring for a loved one there are several options available; most often people often think of these:  a) long term care facilities; b) home care; c) home with a family caregiver; or d) home alone.  Few are aware that adult day care centers are a non-residential facility that supports the health, nutritional, social support and daily living needs of adults in a professionally staffed group setting. Adult day care centers provide a coordinated program of professional and compassionate services for adults in a community-based group setting while serving as an emerging provider of transitional care; designed to provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day. Participation in adult day centers may prevent re-hospitalizations and may delay admission to residential long term care facilities. For participants who would otherwise stay at home alone, the social stimulation and recreational activities may improve or maintain physical and cognitive function. For caregivers, adult day centers provide much needed respite care, enabling them to work or to have a break from their caregiving responsibilities.

IMG_0032-wAway From Home Adult Day Care is such a facility located in Port Jefferson Station.  Elisa Bellido, Director of Away From Home said in an interview this week: “People should see this as an exciting answer to their caregiving options. Our 4,000 square foot state of the art facility’s mission is to ensure dignity, respect and well-being to all participants.  We offer a comprehensive program which provides functionally impaired individuals with socialization; supervision; monitoring; personal care; and nutrition.”

Away From Home is designed to feel like a home, according to Ms. Bellido.  They offer special areas designated for naps, reading, television watching, physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy with plans for future expansion.  Ms. Bellido shared that “our participants walk out of here happy, saying this is my home away from home.”

Daily activities include arts and crafts, games, music, gardening, cognitive and speech enhanced activities, coupled with socialization.  We provide breakfast, a hot lunch, and an afternoon snack.  The facility only hires professionally trained and certified staff, as well certified nursing assistants to care for their participants.

IMG_1062-w“Because we are social animals, we like to be readily accepted.  Therefore, when you find yourself with peers who share the same challenges you do, we tend to be more open and engaged in all activities.  At Away From Home there is no judgement, instead there is support.” Ms. Bellido said.  “People do better within a peer group setting, they take pride and enjoy having fun, accomplishing tasks and communicating with peers.”

Away From Home was created to serve as respite and peace of mind for caregivers.  “My mother and father were seriously ill; I had to take care of them while holding a full time job (65 miles away from home) and two small children,” Ms. Bellido said.  “I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and worried.  I vowed to one day help others in my shoes.  For me, helping keep seniors at home with their loved ones for as long as possible is personal.”

For those struggling with the decision to take care of a loved one, Ms. Bellido has a message:  “There are options.  You don’t have to place your family member in a long term facility.  (Adult day care) brings your loved one happiness in a safe and nurturing environment.”

For more information about Away From Home Adult Day Care visit www.afhadc.org or call (631) 743-9200

*Data from June 2015 report called “Caregiving in the U.S.”, conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving