A federal court judge in Central Islip on Wednesday called out the town of Oyster Bay for ignoring corruption.
The truth-telling didn’t come from town officials.
Or from Nassau’s district attorney’s office, which is said to be continuing an investigation into Oyster Bay.
Instead, it came from U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler, who took impropriety into account in determining sentencing — in an income tax evasion-related case, no less — for former town planning and development commissioner Frederick Ippolito.
A town spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon that Oyster Bay would not comment until it received a transcript of Wexler’s remarks. But I’m betting Oyster Bay officials’ gut reactions likely would be unprintable.
That’s because Wexler took no prisoners, no pun intended, in blowing up the town’s feeble defense of having Ippolito act on behalf of the town in working with a vendor — while at the same time Ippolito was accepting payments from the same vendor or a related family trust.
Wexler, while mentioning no names, nonetheless managed to call out the town board, which includes Supervisor John Venditto, and Oyster Bay’s ethics commission — which includes two town attorneys and a deputy town attorney — for turning blind eyes to a conflict of interest.
Ippolito, the judge noted, received net pay of about $60,000 from the Lizza company, a paving firm, and various related corporations and individuals between 2005 and 2008.
In 2009, Ippolito returned to the Town of Oyster Bay as planning and development commissioner “and that’s where the problem started,” Wexler said.
“He was then given money by the Lizza family” totaling $2 million, the judge said.
Why? At one point, it was because the Lizza family “liked him,” the judge said he was told. But then the justification changed. It became because the Lizza family hired “Ippolito as a part-time consultant,” the judge said he was told. And it changed again, Wexler said, when he was told that the payments went to Ippolito because the Lizza-related concerns owed him money.
“Somebody’s lying,” Wexler said. “Somebody’s misstating the facts.”
From there, the judge moved on to the town’s ethics panel, “which is supposed to make rulings,” he said. But it didn’t in this case, although Ippolito “was representing the town and getting payments from the other side.”
“Of course, the town board says they knew nothing about this,” Wexler went on. But his reading of minutes from a Dec. 18, 2012, town board meeting into the record indicates otherwise. “Ippolito played a key role in the negotiations between the Town of Oyster Bay and Lizza Associates,” according to the minutes.
“So the board knows he was working for them and being paid by someone who he was supposed to be supervising,” Wexler said. “It’s a total conflict. Any kid knows that.”
“I’m sorry,” Wexler added later. “I cannot go along with this.”
And neither should residents in Oyster Bay, two of whom stepped forward when Wexler, before sentencing, took the unusual step of asking whether anyone in the visitors’ gallery had anything to say.
Rob Ripp, who has what best might be described as a prickly relationship with town officials, stepped up to say that he had asked for an ethics decision on Ippolito’s dealing with the Lizza family. And had received no answer.
Well, he did get answers on other issues, via a judge sitting in Suffolk, rather than his own elected representatives, on Wednesday.
Which is shameful.