Two former senior Town of Oyster Bay officials and a Republican political leader were arraigned Thursday on charges that they orchestrated the hiring of a town employee at a substantially higher salary as a political favor and then later conspired to fire him, according to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.
Former Oyster Bay supervisor John Venditto, 68, former parks commissioner Frank Nocerino, 65, and GOP leader Richard Porcelli, 70, faced Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood on June 29.
Venditto, a Republican of Massapequa, was charged with improperly exerting his public authority, a Class E felony, three counts of official misconduct and sixth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.
The charges are on top of a federal public corruption indictment that he already faces stemming from a 2016 case involving Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who was also charged with corruption, and Mangano’s wife, Linda.
Nocerino, of Massapequa, was charged with official misconduct. If convicted, he could spend up to a year in prison.
Porcelli, of Ronkonkoma, the deputy executive leader of the North Massapequa Republican Club, was charged with official misconduct and sixth-degree conspiracy. He, too, faces up to a year in prison.
"Porcelli held no government office, but he directed town affairs with such frequency that town employees thought he worked there," said Singas at a press conference on June 29. "And others had been told to take directions from him as if it was coming from Venditto himself."
The three each pleaded not guilty and are due back in court on Sept.26. They were released on their own recognizance.
“Taxpayers are victimized when public employment is abused to advance the personal interests of the powerful,” Singas said.
According to the district attorney, Frederick Ippolito, the former Oyster Bay planning commissioner who pleaded guilty to tax evasion last year, exercised political influence in the town even after he was imprisoned. He died in federal custody on June 4.
According to the indictment, Venditto ordered Nocerino to hire an employee to work in the town parks department as a favor to Ippolito.
Ippolito wanted the employee hired to curry favor with a woman, Singas said. “He was hired not based on his skills, but on Ippolito’s desire to help his romantic interest while their relationship was good,” the district attorney said.
At the time that the employee was hired, town officials were, in fact, openly discussing laying off employees because of a looming financial crisis.
Months later, Ippolito ordered Venditto and Porcelli to fire the employee. Ippolito did so to “vindictively hurt” the woman with whom he was involved. To divert attention away from the hiring and firing of the employee, they let other employees go, the indictment states.
The employee, who was not named in the indictment, was warned not to discuss the terms of his employment, including his higher salary.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa, Deputy Chief Christine Maloney and Senior Assistant District Attorney Jesse Aviram of the Public Corruption Bureau are prosecuting the case, with help from chief investigator Joshua Genn and investigator Gavin Shea, and Deputy Chief Daniel Bresnahan and Senior Assistant District Attorney Hilda Mortensen of the Appeals Bureau.
Venditto is represented by attorney Mark Agnifilo. Porcelli is represented by Frank Casale. And Nocerino is represented by Christopher Devane. They could not be reached at press time.