A new multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit alleges that an Islip Town councilman knew about the dumping at a Brentwood park months before it became public and consulted fellow Conservative Party leaders and town officials on how to blame the problem on a politically connected couple.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Eastern District Court in Central Islip, claims that Islip councilman and Conservative Party member Anthony S. Senft Jr. and others constructed a plan to pin the dumping at Roberto Clemente Park on Thomas Datre Sr., his wife, Clara Datre, and their company, Daytree at Cortland Square.
In addition to Senft, the suit names Suffolk Conservative Party leader Edward Walsh, local Conservative Party leader Michael Torres, Deputy Islip Town Attorney and Conservative Party member Michael P. Walsh and Town Attorney Robert L. Cicale as defendants.DataContaminants found in parksee alsoDocuments: Illegal dumpingMore coverageToxic dumping probe
The town itself, along with three remaining town council members -- Steven J. Flotteron, John C. Cochrane Jr. and Trish Bergin Weichbrodt -- also were named in the suit.
The heart of the suit alleges that Senft, Torres, Edward Walsh and Michael Walsh hatched a plan to blame the Datres and their company for the dumping at the park in an effort to deflect responsibility from themselves and also "eviscerate" the ability of the Datre family to fundraise for other political parties.
Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre were longtime and generous political fundraisers for the Islip Republican Committee and also raised funds to a lesser extent for the town's Conservative Party.
"I know they never did anything" at the park, Andrew Campanelli of Merrick said of his clients, the Datres and their company.
The suit alleges that Senft, the town board's liaison to the parks department, along with then-town Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his then-secretary, Brett A. Robinson, learned about allegations of dumping of "potentially toxic materials" within the park sometime before Jan. 21, 2014, months before it became public.
On or around that day, Senft, Montuori and Robinson held a "panicked discussion" fearing they'd be blamed for the dumping, then consulted "their Islip Conservative Party superiors," Edward Walsh and Michael Torres, the suit maintains.
Edward Walsh, Michael Walsh, Torres and Senft "fabricated and proceeded to carry out a plan" to lead authorities to believe it was Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre behind the dumping, even though town officials believed it was a company belonging to the Datres' son, Thomas Datre Jr., that brought materials to the park, according to the suit.
Attorney: Suit is 'ludicrous'
Edward Walsh called the claims in the suit "utterly ridiculous."
"I don't have any dealings with the Datres, I don't have any dealings with the park," he said. "I don't even know what they're talking about."
Senft, who said he had not seen the suit, would not comment.
Vincent Messina Jr. of Central Islip, a former Islip Town attorney retained by the town for this matter and speaking on behalf of all town defendants, said he couldn't comment because he hadn't yet seen the filing.
William Keahon, a Hauppauge attorney representing Torres, said he has not seen the suit and called it "laughable."
"They are now saying we never dumped, and by the way everyone's picking on us and they're trying to take away our political power in the town?" Keahon said of the Datres. "It's ludicrous."
In December, six men and four companies were indicted by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota as part of an investigation into dumping at four sites in and around Islip Town.
Thomas Datre Sr. was criminally charged for his alleged involvement in the dumping of contaminated fill at one of the sites, Veterans Way in Islandia.
None of the individuals named in the Datres' federal suit were charged in Spota's dumping probe.
Seeks millions in damages
The Datres' suit seeks at least $9 million in compensatory damages, $30 million in punitive damages from the individuals, and nearly $1.7 million for breach of contract relating to a tree-cutting contract that Daytree of Cortland Square had with the town before it was terminated on May 7, 2014, after the dumping probe began. It also is seeking attorneys' fees and costs.
The defendants libeled the Datres by pinning the park dumping on them, the suit alleges, and conspired to violate their civil rights and violated their right to due process.
The suit points to a meeting in a restaurant after September 2013 complaints about the materials in the park at which Torres, Montuori and Thomas Datre Jr. convened to discuss the situation -- information Newsday reported in August 2014.
Last May, Campanelli told Newsday that two trucks titled to Daytree at Cortland Square that were seen at the park were used by and for DFF Farm -- Thomas Datre Jr.'s company -- but were titled to his parents' company for security purposes.
The scheme to blame the parents was created, the suit alleges, in an effort to protect Montuori and Robinson, whom the suit alleges were "political operatives" of Torres and Edward Walsh.
Montuori, Robinson and Michael Walsh were appointed to town positions after Edward Walsh swung the Conservative Party vote to Tom Croci, allowing him to win his 2012 bid for town supervisor, the suit claims.
"Any implication I would play politics with civil-service position promises is completely false," Croci said Friday in a statement. "Political intrigue only deepens my sadness that any public or political official could be involved in these actions."
On April 24, 2014, Michael Walsh, in his position as Islip's deputy town attorney, sent letters to insurance companies linked to Daytree at Cortland Square, which had the town contract for tree and stump removal, blaming the company for the dumping.
But there was no investigation to reach that conclusion, the suit alleges. The suit further maintains that Cicale, as town attorney, "apparently consented to the publication of such false statements" blaming Daytree at Cortland Square.
Suit: Datres now 'shunned'
Clara Datre was not named in Spota's December dumping indictment, but she, along with Thomas Datre Jr. and his sister Gia Gatien, were indicted in a separate matter a day later on wage violations related to Daytree at Cortland Square's post-superstorm Sandy work for the Town of Islip.
All the parties named in both indictments have pleaded not guilty. Three of those charged in the dumping case, including Thomas Datre Sr. and Thomas Datre Jr., have been offered plea deals by Spota's office.
Montuori and Robinson were the only two town officials named in the dumping indictment -- both in connection with Roberto Clemente Park. Prosecutors said the men knew about the dumping and did nothing to stop it -- allegations both men deny.
After the dumping became a public scandal, Thomas Datre Sr. was removed from the town's Plumbers' Examining Board, and he and Clara Datre were removed from their positions with the Long Island Builders Institute. Campanelli said the allegations "completely ruined" the couple and their business.
The Datres have not worked since May 6, 2014 -- the day the district attorney's office raided their Ronkonkoma headquarters, Campanelli said.
The Datres were forced to sell all equipment related to the tree-trimming business, and also were forced to sell their home in the Hamlet at Wind Watch, a gated community in Hauppauge, and move in with relatives on Long Island, Campanelli said.
"They are now completely shunned in both the industry and the community at large," the suit alleges.