Wantagh Park workers suspended in duct tape incident

Three Nassau employees at Wantagh Park, including the acting pool supervisor, have been suspended without pay for allegedly duct-taping a seasonal worker to a pole last month and videotaping the incident.

Deputy County Executive Ed Ward called the incident "a kids' prank," though the maintenance mechanic filling in as pool supervisor is 50 years old.

"These were four guys horsing around," Ward said. "From the county's point of view, they shouldn't have been horsing around on county time and that's why they're suspended without pay," pending an upcoming hearing.

Ward said Nassau police turned the case over to District Attorney Kathleen Rice to investigate. The alleged victim, he said, has not filed a complaint. Rice's office did not return a request for comment.

Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Nassau's Civil Service Employees Association, said the union will defend the three workers at a hearing before a neutral arbitrator later this month. The maintenance mechanic who is acting as supervisor has worked 32 years for the county without any disciplinary actions, Laricchiuta said. A second full-time pool employee has worked eight years and the third is a 12-year seasonal employee, he said.

Laricchiuta said the incident occurred June 20, at 4:19 p.m., minutes before the work shift ended at 4:30 p.m. "These are four good friends that worked together and played together," Laricchiuta said after interviewing them. "They do these crazy things together -- it was horseplay."

Laricchiuta said he hadn't seen the video of the incident. He said he was told it could appear "very alarming" but if viewed from beginning to end, "you can see it's all big prank."

Bruce Piel, who heads the parks advocacy group ParcNassau, said the incident "went beyond a prank" and signals "a failure of supervision" in the parks department, which has lost employees and managers through budget cuts.

Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) added, "This doesn't involve minors. This doesn't involve kids. It should not be tolerated from adult county employees with years of experience."

County officials did not release the names of the suspended employees or the alleged victim.

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