Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla guilty of official misconduct
Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla was convicted Thursday of one count of official misconduct, but acquitted of three other counts, in a trial that centered around allegations he tried to get intimate photos of a female subordinate who accused him of sexual harassment.
Town Supervisor Kate Murray issued a renewed call for Bonilla to resign, but the town attorney's office said it is considering Bonilla's seat already vacant due to his conviction.
Justice Sharon Gianelli found that Bonilla was guilty of official misconduct when he threatened employee Alex Desidoro with a transfer if Desidoro didn't produce the photos of the complainant, who had been in a relationship with Desidoro.
In her decision, Gianelli cited text messages between Bonilla and another clerk's office employee as part of Bonilla's effort to get the photos.
Gianelli said Bonilla had repeatedly reminded Desidoro of the importance of "loyalty," which "served as a subtle threat that permeated the interactions of Mr. Bonilla with his staff."
But Gianelli found Bonilla not guilty of the three remaining charges -- another count of official misconduct, a count of coercion and a count of attempted petty larceny. Bonilla waived his right to a jury trial.
In a statement, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice lauded the verdict.
"Mark Bonilla created a toxic work environment with his personal conduct and then tried to smear a young woman who rebuffed his unwanted sexual advances," Rice said.
Official misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor, carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.
Bonilla offered no comment outside the courtroom at First District Court in Hempstead, but his attorney, Adrian DiLuzio of Mineola, said he disagreed with the verdict and probably would appeal.
DiLuzio has claimed that the allegations against Bonilla, a Republican, were politically motivated by the Democratic-led district attorney's office, and were also a way for the complainant to amass ammunition against Bonilla for a civil case she filed against him.
"My sentiment is people were out to get him," DiLuzio said outside court Thursday. "That's what I think motivated it."
Thursday, the town attorney's office cited a provision of the state Public Officers Law in opining that Bonilla's seat was made vacant by his conviction.
"A vacancy has been created, however there's a mechanism that governs how we proceed from here," town spokesman Mike Deery said.
Deery said that according to the town attorney, the clerk of the court must inform Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of the conviction, and Cuomo would then notify the town board of the vacancy created by the conviction.
Deery did not have a timetable for when the town expected that to happen, and said that in the meantime Bonilla would not be locked out of his office.
Meanwhile, Murray, a fellow Republican, renewed her call for Bonilla to resign from the position he's held for nearly 10 years, saying in a statement issued Thursday that those who violate the public trust "no longer have any place in public service."
DiLuzio said it would be Bonilla's decision whether to resign, but said it would be reasonable if that was postponed until Bonilla's sentencing on Sept. 26. Bonilla is not running for re-election in November.
Before reading her verdict, Gianelli said the trial was not intended to determine the veracity of the sexual-harassment claim.
"This trial is not determining in any way whether Mr. Bonilla sexually harassed anyone," she said.