A close aide to disgraced former Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla was arrested Thursday and charged with deleting more than 5,000 files from town computers on the same day his boss was banished from his post.
Derek Foder, 27, of Malverne, pleaded not guilty to third-degree computer tampering, a felony, at his arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead. Judge Eric Bjorneby released him without bail. He faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court Monday.
Fodor left court afterward without comment. He is represented by the Nassau Legal Aid Society, which does not comment on individual cases.
"Mr. Foder deleted sensitive information essential to the operation of an important Town of Hempstead office," said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. "My office will continue to weed out those who abuse the trust placed in them by the public and ensure that they face the consequences of their actions."
Foder testified in July at Bonilla's trial on official misconduct charges, saying he had carried messages between Bonilla and another employee, whom prosecutors said Bonilla had pressured to produce compromising photos of a woman who had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the clerk. Judge Sharon Gianelli found Bonilla guilty of official misconduct on July 25 and he was removed from office Aug. 8.
Prosecutors said that Foder, an office aide in the clerk's office, logged on to his work computer that same day and deleted more than 5,000 files from the office's computer database, including information about marriage licenses and death records and a folder titled "Mark's Facebook Pictures," which were pictures posted by the town on its official Facebook page.
All of the deleted files were recovered. Some of the information Foder accessed and deleted is not available to the public without a court order. Foder told town officials on Monday that he had deleted the files accidentally. He was fired the next day and the case was referred to Rice's office. Foder earned more than $38,000 per year at the time of his termination, prosecutors said.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said the town attorney's office became aware recently of Foder's "disturbing actions" and furnished findings from its investigation to the district attorney's office.
Foder was hired by the town in June 2003 and became a full-time employee in March 2011.