Mark A. Bonilla, the clerk for the Town of Hempstead, was charged Friday for what law enforcement officials say was his attempt to obtain intimate photos of a female subordinate who had filed a claim of sexual harassment against him, officials said.
Law enforcement sources added that Bonilla’s actions were intended to discredit or silence his accuser.
Bonilla, 50, of Bellmore, who according to the town’s website made history in 2003 when he became “the first Hispanic to be elected to a townwide position in the Town of Hempstead,” is charged with official misconduct, second-degree attempted coercion, and petty larceny, all misdemeanors, according to a criminal complaint.
The Republican was arrested by detectives from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office Friday afternoon. He was in custody Friday night and was to be arraigned Saturday. Neither he nor his attorney could be reached Friday night.
The complaint, filed by Det. Investigator William Walsh, says that on Aug. 19 Bonilla tried to force one of his employees, Alex Desidoro, to supply him with compromising photos of a female employee who had filed the sexual harassment claim against Bonilla. Those employees could not be reached for comment Friday night.
Desidoro possessed the photos because he had had an intimate relationship with the woman, the complaint said.
“During his request for said photographs, the defendant stated to Mr. Desidoro that, if his request were not complied with, he would question Mr. Desidoro’s loyalty and transfer him out of the Town Clerk’s office,” the complaint said. It went on to say that Bonilla promised to “promote Mr. Desidoro to full time employment” if he cooperated.
Republican town Supervisor Kate Murray said she was “disgusted” by such conduct while calling on Bonilla to step down.
“I am personally offended and disgusted by the alleged conduct of the Town Clerk,” she said in a statement. “Public officials must hold themselves above reproach, and the credible allegations that have come to my attention have undermined my trust and confidence in him. As a result, I am calling upon the Town Clerk to resign his position immediately.”
Murray’s statement said the town attorney’s office investigated complaints against Bonilla and the probe has revealed credible allegations of sexual harassment among other issues. The town then handed the results of its investigation over to Rice, she said. Murray will likely address the charges in a news conference Saturday, town spokesman Mike Deery said.
The investigation began with complaints to town officials, Deery said, adding that he was unable to disclose the nature of the complaints or who made them. Those complaints spurred the town attorney’s investigation. “We believe there was a credible allegation of sexual harassment,” he said.
Deery said town officials were surprised by the conduct. “We really were kind of taken,” he said. “It really was rather sudden.”
Bonilla had practiced law in the areas of criminal defense, landlord-tenant and domestic relations before being elected town clerk. He earns $106,500 a year and is a key official in a town of more than 765,000 residents.
With Patrick Whittle
This story has been corrected to state, in the fifth paragraph, that the employees could not be reached for comment Friday night.