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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Sifting for facts on Islip dumping

The gate at the west entrance to Roberto

The gate at the west entrance to Roberto Clemente Park is chained shut on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

It looks as if a special county grand jury, impaneled to consider the dumping of tons of illegal, toxic debris at multiple sites in Islip, could have up to six months to do its job.

That's a good thing because there's a lot of sifting to do.

And whatever conclusion the grand jury makes potentially could lay the groundwork -- absolutely no pun intended -- for other law enforcement agencies to jump in.

Thus far, it looks as if town residents -- especially those bordering Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, where the worst of the refuse was dumped -- may know who might be responsible.

That, according to a formal notification town officials made to four insurance companies in April, likely would be Daytree at Cortland Square of Ronkonkoma, a politically connected construction firm that Islip officials blame for dumping refuse in the park. Daytree officials have denied the allegations.

Since then, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota jumped onto the case with an ongoing criminal investigation that's spread to three other sites.

But is there potentially more than one "who" responsible? Early on, Islip officials fired the town parks commissioner and a subordinate. But given that principals in the firm cited by Islip have political ties that -- until recently -- spread wide and deep into the town, does responsibility for the dumping reach higher?

And why was the dumping -- at Clemente park, in particular -- allowed to go on for months, despite town park rangers notifying superiors of suspicions that something was wrong?

And what was there about Clemente park that made it so attractive a target for truck after truck after truck to make trips enough to dump 150 tons of material? Was it that the community is majority black and Hispanic? Is that one potential reason why the dumping was ignored?

If so, then an investigation about illegal dumping could grow to encompass potential violations of both environmental and civil rights laws.

James DiPietro, a former Nassau prosecutor turned New York City criminal defense attorney, told Newsday, among other things, that a special grand jury could help Spota.

As part of the probe, the district attorney's office has looked into whether Islip's Conservative Party-run parks department played some role. The department was headed by Joseph Montuori -- until he was fired by the town board.

Montuori and Islip's Conservative Party leader, Michael Torres, are closely allied to Edward Walsh, Suffolk's Conservative Party leader. And the Conservative Party has, three times, endorsed Spota for district attorney.

The special grand jury, in looking at the dumping or any other case, is a tool of the prosecution.

But a grand jury's findings -- and that includes decisions on whether to lodge criminal charges -- are its own.

And there's another advantage. On Long Island, special grand juries typically issue reports, which carefully outline their findings. Which means that, at some point, Islip Town residents -- who likely will bear part of the expense of cleaning up the sites -- have a chance to know what happened, why it happened and, most importantly, who was responsible.

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