Heritage event boycott called over Bonilla case

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla outside his

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla outside his office in Hempstead, New York. (Oct. 1, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A group of Latino organizations has called for residents to boycott Hempstead Town's annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration Wednesday as a show of support for Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, who faces calls for his resignation in the wake of criminal charges.

Members of the group -- which includes religious and civic leaders from Long Island and New York City -- said the town has robbed Bonilla of his right to due process by calling for him to resign.

The Hispanic heritage event is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. at Town Hall, where it will be preceded by a 2 p.m. demonstration by the group.

Bonilla, 50, of Bellmore, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he attempted to obtain intimate photos of a female subordinate after she filed a claim of sexual harassment against him.

Bishop Fernando Rodriguez of the Bronx-based Latin/African American Chaplains Association, which is participating in Wednesday's demonstration, said the town should treat Bonilla as innocent until the case is resolved.

"We just want to support a man who has been working tirelessly for this community," Rodriguez said.

The town and Supervisor Kate Murray, who has called for Bonilla to resign, have no official reaction to the planned demonstration, said spokesman Mike Deery. He disputed a claim from protesters that Bonilla was excluded from today's heritage event.

"It's the supervisor's event and I don't know that any individual invites were sent out," Deery said.

Attempts to reach Bonilla were not successful. He has said he will make a decision about his resignation this week.

"It seems to me in our conversations, he's not going to resign," said Bonilla's attorney, Adrian DiLuzio of Mineola.

Bonilla is charged with two counts of official misconduct, coercion and attempted petty larceny. He will enter a new plea at his next court date on Oct. 26 in District Court in Hempstead, as charges were revised after his initial plea.

The Hispanic heritage event is intended to honor Latino leaders and culture, Deery said. George Siberon, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said he thinks Bonilla has been treated unfairly, but he intends to be at the event anyway."I don't want that to take away from the celebration of our heritage," he said.

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