Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. Credit: Barry Sloan

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, maybe not stormy, but wet.

At 12:45 a.m. on Aug. 8, a sedan registered to the Town of Huntington "skidded on a wet surface," according to a Suffolk County Police report, causing the car "to go off roadway and hit utility pole" on West Hills Road in Melville.

The driver of the car, the report says, was Chad Lupinacci, supervisor of Suffolk's westernmost town.

The report goes on, via a checked box in one spot, to note that there were no police photos.

And in another box, to record the sedan had been towed to "Town of Hunt."

To this day, Lupinacci has not publicly addressed whatever happened that night.

Instead, the town has relied on its spokeswoman, Lauren Lembo.

And the gist of the most pertinent of what Lembo has to say, boils down to this:

The town supervisor was involved in a one-car accident around the corner from his home, and there was property damage.

On that night, according to Lembo, the supervisor was in "shock," "couldn't find his cellphone" and "walked away from the scene to get help from a neighbor to call police."

Under New York State's vehicle and traffic law (Section 600), the driver is supposed to report the accident and stay at the scene, at the ready to present name, residence, insurance carrier, license, etc.

That's true, even if the damage was to a town-owned car and, as in this case, to New York Telephone company's utility pole No. 76.

Lembo does not say whether he ever returned to the accident site; the police report is silent on that point as well.

It's also silent on whether Lupinacci sought or received medical attention.

Lembo, in subsequent interviews with reporters, said Lupinacci continued to work. As Newsday has reported, he even went on to chair a town board meeting on Aug. 11, four days after the crash.

On Friday, in response to a Newsday request to interview Lupinacci about the incident, Lembo sent this statement:

"In almost a month since the accident, the Supervisor has responded to over 12 inquiries from 6 reporters providing all the pertinent details and information on what happened as well as Town protocols that were followed.

"The same procedure was employed when a Town Public Safety SUV skidded on a wet road and hit a utility pole two weeks after the Supervisor's accident.

"The Department of General Services towed the vehicle to a repair shop on Town bid.

"We have no further comment on this matter."

But not so fast.

On Friday, Suffolk County police — expanding on an earlier police statement — told Newsday the department's Internal Affairs Bureau, which investigates allegations of police misconduct or criminal activity, "is investigating the department’s response to this crash."

As well it should.

Because there's a larger context to be considered here.

For one, did Lupinacci receive preferential treatment because of his position?

What about the town, itself: Is it reviewing its response to the incident as well?

Lupinacci may be a lame duck who isn't seeking reelection in November.

But as the campaign to replace him revs up, the town's lack of transparency about the accident merits scrutiny.

Supervisors have access to taxpayer-paid staff, whom they can allow to speak for them, tow their taxpayer-paid vehicles to taxpayer-funded facilities and also arrange to fix an estimated $22,000 in damage to the supervisor's sedan at taxpayer expense.

But if Suffolk County police have launched an internal affairs investigation, and the town persists in giving residents the silent treatment, could there be room for another investigation as well?

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office has a bureau that can look at such things.

Has the office been asked to do so, or is it doing so already?

Justin Meyers, a spokesman for District Attorney Timothy Sini, on Friday offered the office's standard response to questions about any possible investigation.

"We don't comment on that kind of thing," Meyers said.

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