Allegations In Federal Lawsuit Raise Questions About Town Practices
While some have called State Republican Chair Joe Mondello the Godfather of the Nassau County GOP (which boasts the Town of Hempstead as its last "family" to survive the "democratization" of Nassau), who would have thought that a civil lawsuit alleging racketeering -- commonly used against organized crime families -- would be affixed to the door at Hempstead Town Hall?
Hmmm. Joseph Mondello. Joseph Ra. Al D'Amato. Katuria D'Amato. Anthony "they enjoy paying more" Santino... Nah! Any resemblence to organized crime figures -- living or dead -- or ties to organized crime (more like disorganized crime, if you ask us), is purely coincidental.
That "mob" at Hempstead Town Hall, more akin to the Keystone Cops than the Cosa Nostra, comes under scrutiny once again, this time for alleged missteps by Town Building Inspectors.
Oh, that would be a surprise.
No, this isn't the case of another Watergate, where White House "plumbers" took the fall -- as did the big guy whose presidency went down the drain -- but this certainly can be seen as yet another nail in the coffin of one-party rule in Hempstead Town.
Lawsuits under the Racketeering Influence and Corruption Act (RICO) are difficult to maintain, let alone to prove. Judges are suspect of such causes, and most stringent in their application of the law.
Among the allegations set forth in the complaint, the Town of Hempstead, along with other defendants, is said to have engaged in "a pattern of... bribery, extortion, coercion, mail and wire fraud."
Imagine that, "mail fraud" at the Town of Hempstead! Stop the presses. Halt the Murraygrams!
Those with memories longer than the life of a fruit fly will note that this is not the first RICO suit brought against the Town of Hempstead.
In Cullen v. Margiotta, the statute was said to have been violated when it was alleged that the County of Nassau, the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County Republican Committee, and the Town of Hempstead Republican Committee coerced employees of the county and town to make contributions to the two Republican committees. The so-called 1% rule.
RICO may not stick to the Town of Hempstead this time around -- even as the Nassau District Attorney's office continues to investigate purpoted abuses within the Town of Hempstead's Building Department -- but even this latest brush with the law raises the spector of the appearance of impropriety at Town Hall.
No, we haven't begun to ask the question, "What did the Supervisor know, and when did she know it?" Way too early in the game.
We do, however, wonder just what it will be that, in the end (and the end is coming), brings down the tyranny at Town Hall in Hempstead Town.
They got Al Capone on tax evasion charges, after all, not murder, rum running, or mob-related activities.
Ah yes. Its all fun and games in Hempstead Town, until the taxpayers are asked to pick up the tab for the defense of practices and procedures that fly in the face of both credulity and good government.
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A draining experience
Baldwin homeowner files rare RICO Act suit against Hempstead, workers over claim of botched plumbing job
By Eden Laikin and Collin Nash
A Baldwin homeowner filed a rarely used civil racketeering lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead and two of its employees, claiming they conspired with a contractor to hide town employees' connections to a botched plumbing job at her home.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act - usually employed in organized crime cases - alleges that the defendants participated in a "pattern of ... bribery, extortion, coercion, mail and wire fraud" linked to conflicts of interest.
Hemsptead spokesman Michael Deery said the complaint, as it relates to a conspiracy by Town of Hempstead officials, has no merit. "The town has been very aggressive in pursuing contractors who did work on the complainant's house," he added.
Janice Crippen alleges that Hempstead building inspectors ignored repeated requests to examine shoddy plumbing work at her home, including improper ventilation, disconnected pipes and no space to install a toilet. She said they advised her to bring her complaint to a town examination board, a member of which owns the company that held the plumbing permit for the renovations.
In the 50-page complaint, filed in State Supreme Court in Mineola, Crippen's attorney, Kenneth Mollins of Melville, alleges that code enforcement officer Carmine Salute falsified town records in order to cover up for town appointed Plumbers Examination Board member Anthony Disabato.
A signed inspection record indicates that Salute inspected the underground plumbing at Crippen's house and approved it, four months before, Crippen said, Salute actually came to her home.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Disabato's Bellmore-based plumbing company, AMD & Associates; Carlos Jaramillo, an employee of AMD; Matco Remodeling Inc. of Wantagh, the general contractor; and Matthew Schwan, a principal of Matco.
In March 2006, town building code charges were brought against three of the five defendants in the suit, including board member Disabato, for creating unsafe conditions at the house.John Powers of Deer Park, attorney for Disabato and Jaramillo, said Jaramillo, a principal of AMD, took out the permit.
The complaint "seems to be a self-serving declaration by an individual who believes poor workmanship was performed by a general contractor," Powers said.
He added that when Crippen's complaints came before the full board, Disabato recused himself.
Crippen filed a complaint last year with the Nassau district attorney. Spokesman Eric Phillips said, "The office is monitoring very closely the substance of any litigation with these types of allegations." Sources close to the probe said the district attorney's office has been investigating the town's building department for more than a year over allegations of inspectors issuing permits in exchange for favors.
In July 2005, Crippen hired Matco - which has since lost its contractor's license because of Crippen's complaints - to renovate the lower level of her Baldwin split level to accommodate her elderly disabled mother. The $37,000 in renovations included expansion of an existing bathroom, structural, electrical and plumbing work.
According to the complaint, the unlicensed workers used by Matco to perform the extensive underground plumbing work botched the job and left the residence practically uninhabitable.
In an interview yesterday, Crippen described the incident as an "unimaginable nightmare" that could have ended tragically.
Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.