Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla was arrested late last week and is facing criminal charges stemming from sexual harassment allegations that have been under investigation for the past month.
Bonilla, 50, was arrested on Sept. 21 by investigators from the Nassau County district attorney’s office. According to Town Supervisor Kate Murray, complaints of sexual harassment by Bonilla were made to the town’s Human Resources department in mid-August. The town attorney’s office began its own investigation before turning the case over to District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Bonilla, the town clerk since 2003, faces misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, second-degree coercion, and attempted petit larceny. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last Saturday morning. A second official misconduct charge was added to a revised complaint that was filed at First District Court on Thursday morning, according to the district attorney's office.
The matter became criminal, Rice explained, when Bonilla “abused his position in an effort to discredit his accuser.” She said that Joseph Ra, the town attorney, told investigators that when Bonilla was interviewed, he asked whether a $10,000 payment to a female employee would make her allegations of sexual harassment against him “go away.” Rice said it was not clear whether he was suggesting that the complainant be offered town funds or if Bonilla was willing to make the payment himself.
According to the criminal complaint, Bonilla later tried to obtain personal photographs of the female employee from a male employee, 21-year-old Alex Desidoro. The complaint alleges that Bonilla told Desidoro he would be transferred out of the town clerk’s office if he did not comply with the request, but would be promoted if he did.
Since Bonilla’s arrest, orders of protection have been issued for the female employee and Desidoro, which Bonilla’s attorney, Adrian L. DiLuzio, said were unnecessary.
There have been three specific allegations of harassment made against Bonilla, Rice said. However, she added, they do not involve physical abuse, but rather inappropriate conduct that created a hostile work environment. Those claims are a civil and administrative matter to be handled by town officials, but Rice said they do not appear to be criminal.