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Quinlan is set to replace current Republican Town Attorney Robert Cicale after a decision by Town Supervisor Phil Nolan to find the "best and the brightest" candidate for the job.
Previously, Islip Town Code required that elected officials, as well as those serving in certain appointed positions, reside within town borders. The pool of possible employees now will be broadened to include all Nassau and Suffolk county residents.
At the hearing, many offered support for Nolan's decision and vouched for Quinlan's ability. Attorney and former Suffolk County Legislator John Finnerty, of Bay Shore, said Quinlan is "extremely competent and able" and "has a lot to add to the town of Islip." Finnerty, a Republican, added that he has "an obligation to bring some bipartisan support" to the Democratic-sponsored issue.
Another attorney, Andrew Siben, of Bay Shore, said Islip "could not have made a better decision" in taking on Quinlan.
But the hearing was not all praise, especially after East Islip resident Pat Montanino took the floor, accusing Nolan of breaching a state statute and neglecting Islip's needs. "It's a slap in the face to the town," she said.
Responding to Montanino's allegations, Nolan said he sought an admissible town code change so Islip could hire Quinlan "in the right legal manner."
Under New York State law, elected and appointed officials are required to reside in the municipality they represent, but a local government may pass its own law to override the restriction, said Maureen Liccione, an attorney for the Garden City-based law firm Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman LLP.
There is a "trend throughout the state to reach beyond municipal borders" in search of a wider pool of job candidates, Liccione said as she addressed the board. She said towns from across Long Island have done the same over the past decade, including Babylon, Southampton and North Hempstead.
Still, some weren't convinced the statewide trend would work for Islip, a town with a population of more than 300,000 people. Joseph Sargent, of Islip Terrace, echoed Montanino when he said he was surprised officials were unable to find a qualified attorney within the town's wide borders.
"I don't think it's good to change town policy," he said, adamant that residency makes way for better representation.
The town attorney is responsible for representing the town in all legal matters and advising officials on crafting local laws.
Councilman Steve Flotteron, the sole Republican left on a board that turned Democratic in January, offered another objection - that Nolan's method for choosing Quinlan flies in the face of earlier town attorney searches in which all board members were involved. He said he was not allowed any input in the "secretive" search process this time around.
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