Oyster Bay hires FBI veteran to clean up bay constable unit

Oyster Bay Town is hiring Michael Craft, an

Oyster Bay Town is hiring Michael Craft, an FBI supervisor as deputy public safety commissioner. (Credit: Handout)

Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto has hired a veteran FBI agent as "a new sheriff in town" to straighten out the troubled bay constable unit.

Michael Craft left the FBI Thursday and will start later this month in a newly created public safety department position as a deputy commissioner for the town -- the department's third. But he will also function as a legal troubleshooter for Venditto.

Craft, 55, a longtime boater who will be paid $120,000 a year, has been an FBI special agent on the white-collar crimes squad for Nassau and Suffolk since 1991.

He replaces John Antetomaso, the supervisor of conservation and waterways reassigned in September after admitting to storing three of his family's boats in a town building. He also acknowledged ordering three bay constables to bring him gasoline when a friend's boat he was on in Islip ran out of fuel.

Venditto said Craft will also replace Colin O'Donnell, his special counsel from 2006 until last March when he was appointed a district court judge. O'Donnell's salary was $135,993.

But Venditto said "his primary focus is going to be the bay constables." The town employs 18 full-time and part-time constables to patrol town waters and enforce safety, fishing and other laws.

Town Attorney Leonard Genova investigated allegations that Antetomaso and other members of the bay constable unit misused personnel and equipment and submitted a report to the district attorney's office in June.

John Byrne, spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, said: "Investigators have reviewed allegations of misconduct by John Antetomaso. At this time, the evidence does not rise to a crime provable beyond reasonable doubt." The investigation remains open, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact Rice's office.

Antetomaso, 46, retains his title, $120,320 salary and town vehicle. His duties are assessing storm-damaged waterways and docks, arranging for removal of waterway debris and abandoned or sunken boats, maintaining bay constable training records; revamping the eel grass removal program; overseeing placement of buoys and reviewing policies and equipment for compliance with federal worker safety regulations; and coordinating openings of shellfish areas.

But, "his duties don't include having any contact with bay constables," town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.

Antetomaso declined to comment.

"There are conflicting allegations coming out of the bay constables," Venditto said. "We need to unravel everything and find out what the truth is."

He said Craft will have authority to alter work assignments and buy new equipment. Two bay constables have alleged in a lawsuit and a grievance that patrol boats are waterlogged and lack safety equipment.

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