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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

The search for why illegal dumping was allowed in Roberto Clemente Park

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. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Two Islip Town parks department officials, over a period of eight months beginning in August 2013, facilitated and later tried to cover up illegal dumping in Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

These charges were aired in a Central Islip courtroom Monday with the opening of a criminal indictment handed up by a special grand jury that has been investigating toxic waste dumping at four sites in Suffolk -- three in Islip.

It is also alleged that during that time Islip's top parks official, Joseph Montuori Jr., misled town and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials about what was going on in the park.

Just why Montuori, and his then-executive secretary, Brett A. Robinson -- who along with Montuori was charged in the 32-count indictment -- would allow dumping in a public park used by Brentwood residents was not addressed Monday.

It's essential that answer come, one day.

As early as Aug. 19, when a town official sought an update on how renovations were going at the park, Montuori responded in an email: "OUT OF CONTROL," followed by 36 exclamation points. One day later, according to the indictment, he added another message to an ongoing email chain about the park, "What bull."

Montuori and Robinson were indicted along with two contractors, a prominent local businessman and his son. All six entered pleas of not guilty.

Allegations in the indictment once again raise questions about the intersection of power and money on Long Island and whether some public officials work for the good of residents or themselves.

And anyone familiar with Long Island's demographics has to question why mostly Latino and African-American Brentwood was the recipient of what Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota has labeled an environmental nightmare.

According to the indictment, Robinson and/or Montuori -- at the request of the town's public safety department or after receiving a complaint -- visited or directed others to visit the park three times.

Somewhere between December 2013 and January 2014, Montuori directed another person -- unnamed in the indictment -- to visit the site. That person reported back that "unsuitable materials" had been dumped at the facility; and on Jan. 21, an Islip Town official -- not identified in the indictment -- showed Montuori and Robinson photographs of debris in the recharge basin in one part of the park.

That same day, Montuori is alleged to have asked town parks workers to attempt to remove some of the material "to avoid further scrutiny of the site," according to the indictment.

And then, on that same day or later in the month, Montuori is alleged to have met with a third defendant -- Thomas Datre Jr., son of Thomas Sr. and Clara Datre, both of whom have contributed generously to the town GOP Committee -- and a "local political party official" to arrange for the younger Datre to remove debris from the recharge basin.

Days later, Montuori is alleged to have deceived an unnamed town official who expressed concern about dumping in the park. He would go on, during a meeting with town officials, to give what the indictment called "inconsistent answers and deny . . . personal knowledge as to how the materials got there."

It doesn't end there.

Montuori is alleged to have made calls to two local state Department of Environmental Conservation officers during which he falsely said debris had been stored at the park by mistake.It is likely more critical answers will come from the grand jury, which will keep the case well into February.


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