Mark Bonilla, the Town of Hempstead clerk who was recently convicted of official misconduct and faces up to a year in jail, was asked to vacate his office last Thursday, officials said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to Town Supervisor Kate Murray on Aug. 8 in which he stated that he was notified by Nassau County District Court Clerk Kenneth Roll of Bonilla's criminal conviction. Cuomo said that, based on Bonilla’s conviction of a crime that violated his oath of office and Public Officers Law 37, “the office of the town clerk is vacant.”
Murray said that when the town received the governor’s letter, officials informed Bonilla of the vacancy and instructed him to leave his office and return any government property in his possession to the town by the close of business. In a letter to Bonilla, Town Attorney Joseph Ra explained that the clerk had to return his town car, his office and car keys and town identification before he left the office.
But Adrian DiLuzio, Bonilla’s Mineola-based attorney, said the law referenced in Cuomo’s letter only suggested that the district court clerk is obligated to notify the governor of a public official's conviction and did not specify any procedures or regulations related to removing an official from office. However, after reaching out to the governor’s office, he said he found that the letter was written by an assistant who neglected to reference a section of Public Officers Law 30 that explicitly states that an office becomes vacant when an official is convicted of a crime that violates his or her oath of office.
Therefore, DiLuzio said, the town was within its rights to ask him to leave, and Bonilla will not pursue any legal action to return to his post. “I said to Mark, ‘We’re not going anyplace with this. We lose,’” the attorney said.
Bonilla, 50, of Bellmore, was arrested last Sept. 21 by Nassau County District Attorney’s Office investigators. Murray said complaints of sexual harassment by Bonilla were made to the town’s Human Resources Department last August. The town attorney’s office investigated before turning the case over to District Attorney Kathleen Rice.