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Mayor refutes bullying claims

No reports of harassment filed in City Hall

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Glen Cove residents expressed shock on social media after watching a News12 report about harassment claims aimed at Democratic Mayor Timothy Tenke on Oct. 2. The story was based on a press release written by Zefy Christopoulos, a former Republican candidate for the Nassau County Legislature, in which City Controller Sandra Clarson and Parks and Recreation Director Darcy Belyea claimed they had been bullied and used as scapegoats by Tenke. They added that he had created a poor working environment for women.

The Herald Gazette filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the city for any claims of harassment filed within the past three years. The city clerk, Tina Pemberton, said that a search of city records yielded no such claims.

Christopoulos’s ties to the Republican Party, the absence of claims and the timing of the press release — at the height of election season — left some residents skeptical of the story. There were negative reactions on the Glen Cove Neighbors Facebook group from those who described it as unsubstantiated and politically motivated.

Christopoulos was the press secretary for the Democratic majority from 2008 to 2011 and the editor of the Glen Cove Record Pilot from 1991 to 2002. She registered with the Independence Party in 2012 because she said she was disappointed with the Democratic Party, and was also appointed as chief of staff by then Republican Mayor Reggie Spinello in 2014. She said she was a longtime friend of Belyea’s, and that the allegations against Tenke compelled her to help Belyea and Clarson make their story public. They came to her, she said, because of her experience in the media.

According to the release, Clarson said that Tenke targeted her after she found out that his paychecks had not included the proper 10 percent deduction for health care benefits since he took office in 2018. When that information was leaked to Newsday on July 18, Tenke called on Clarson to resign, claiming that it was her job to make those deductions and that he had lost confidence in her ability to do her job. Clarson said that the city’s Department of Human Resources made the error.

The release stated that Belyea claimed the harassment began at the start of Tenke’s term, and that she had been disregarded and disrespected by the mayor and his appointees. She cited an episode this summer, when the city questioned her status as a Civil Service Employees Association member — and with it, her ability to collect overtime pay. Although the CSEA initially said she was not a member, it reversed its position in late August, and asked for her benefits to be reinstated. Belyea said that the mayor threatened to deny her her union rights. Belyea’s union status was also questioned in 2016 and 2018.

“I am very troubled at what appears to be a serious and dangerous pattern,” Belyea stated in the release, “because like Sandra and others, I have a passion for my job and I love serving the residents of this city.”

Tenke refuted claims that he had created a culture in City Hall that demeans women. In a statement, he said that there are official channels through which any employee can file a claim of workplace harassment, and that each one of those claims is handled with “the utmost professionalism.”

“In this instance, however, there has been no claim whatsoever filed with the city — this complaint exists solely in the political press release,” Tenke stated. “With the absence of an official claim, and a press release from a known Republican operative, the preponderance of evidence suggests this is nothing more than a political attack, and an attempt to tarnish my good name a mere month away from the general election.”

City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman also called the claims politically motivated and unsubstantiated, and said that residents should not give them any credence. “A lot of nasty politics has come out,” Silverman said. “Politics should have its place in Glen Cove, but it shouldn’t divide us. We’re one community.”

Christopoulos denied that the press release was political, and added that with Clarson’s and Belyea’s claims out in the open, more women working in City Hall were now free to file their own complaints. As of press time, none had.