Source: More complaints against Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla
The investigation by the Nassau district attorney's office into Hempstead Town Clerk Mark A. Bonilla includes complaints against him by three young women, a law enforcement source said Saturday.
New details of the inquiry emerged a day after Bonilla was accused in a criminal complaint of scheming to obtain "intimate and personal photographs" of a female subordinate accusing him of sexual harassment.
Town Supervisor Kate Murray called on Bonilla to resign and said in an interview that "two more people have come forward in the past couple of days" with complaints against the clerk. She declined to discuss the nature of the complaints. Town spokesman Michael Deery said the complaints were forwarded to the DA's office.
The law enforcement source said the investigators are looking into allegations by three women, all in their 20s, describing a "hostile work environment." Their complaints were "of a sexual nature," the source said.
Bonilla -- a married 50-year-old father of four -- was freed Saturday after pleading not guilty to three misdemeanors in connection with the photograph case.
Bonilla is charged with official misconduct, second-degree attempted coercion and petty larceny, according to a criminal complaint, which did not explain the reason for the larceny charge. He is due back in court Oct. 26.
Leaving arraignment court after spending the night in police detention, he covered his face with papers from court and would say only, "The criminal system presumes innocence before guilt."
Bonilla ignored questions about whether he would resign from the elected post. He is in charge of about 125 employees and earns $129,500 a year.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, joined by five of six other members of the town board, Murray said: "I don't think you have to be convicted to be guilty of inappropriate behavior in a professional government setting. Credible allegations of sexual harassment demand that the clerk resign." The absent board member was out of town.
Murray said she hopes Bonilla, who has served more than nine years, doesn't return to Town Hall tomorrow. She said they hand-delivered a letter to Bonilla's home calling for his resignation.
Bonilla is charged with threatening in August to transfer an employee, Alex Desidoro, 21, who had an intimate relationship with the woman, if he didn't hand over compromising photographs, authorities said. Bonilla promised him full-time employment if he gave him the photos, authorities said.
Law enforcement sources said Bonilla's actions were intended to discredit or silence the accuser.
Desidoro declined to comment on the case. He did say he has worked in the clerk's office for three years, and "before this issue, he was a good boss."
At the arraignment, Judge Eric Bjorneby signed three protective orders barring Bonilla from contacting or going near Desidoro, the woman who alleged harassment or another witness in the case, except for "incidental contact at place of employment."
According to court papers summarizing an interview Friday evening at the district attorney's office, Bonilla admitted he told the man who had the photos "that the subordinate female employee was a bad person." He also told the man he "should watch himself."
Bonilla told investigators that the person replied, "Don't worry. I have photos." Bonilla said that the person -- who he said he knew was in a relationship with the subordinate -- "offered" him the photos but he refused to accept them.
If Bonilla rebuffs calls for his resignation, only a felony conviction would automatically result in his removal, said Town Attorney Joseph J. Ra. He said town lawyers are researching whether Bonilla could be removed on the basis of violating his oath of office.
Ra said that if Bonilla resigns, the town board would have to appoint a town clerk. The person appointed would then have to run for election in November 2013.
Bonilla, a Republican from Bellmore, was appointed to the post to fill a vacancy left by his predecessor, Murray, also a Republican, in March 2003 and elected that November to the first of five terms.
With Ann Givens
and Robert Lewis