State Sen. Tom Croci criticized Newsday for a story that said military records show he voluntarily sought deployment to Afghanistan as a Navy reservist months before he announced he was stepping down as Islip town supervisor in 2013 because of a mandatory deployment order.
Croci (R-Sayville) responded to the story, published Sunday, with a statement that said in part: “The process of discussing the timing and circumstances of my deployment resulted in the issuance of orders by the Navy, which‘involuntarily recalled me to active duty’ (orders not obtained for this story).”
Croci, in a March 2 phone interview, said he would provide Newsday with the orders, but he never did.
Navy documents obtained by Newsday through a Freedom of Information Act request show Croci communicated with Navy officials about voluntarily deploying 10 months into his term as supervisor in November 2012.
Newsday appealed an initial denial of its FOIA request, and the Navy provided the records in early February. In a letter, a Navy attorney said that ordinarily service members could expect information on whether a mobilization was voluntary or involuntary to remain confidential. In this case, however, he determined that Croci had waived that expectation by discussing the terms of his mobilization publicly.
“The public interest outweighs Mr. Croci’s privacy interest as he has clearly not intended that this information remain private since he volunteered information to the media regarding whether his mobilization was involuntary,” the letter said.
The documents show he actively campaigned for an assignment he favored, rejected one he didn’t and ultimately chose to accept mobilization to Afghanistan as part of the Joint Special Operations Command in January 2013, four months before telling the public.
In May 2013, Croci announced he was stepping down as supervisor, citing mandatory recall orders, but Navy records show that he received the orders only after signing a two-part waiver freely accepting the Afghanistan assignment.
The two-part military waiver, signed by Croci on Jan. 13, 2013, shows he signed-off on “volunteering to mobilize with less than sixty days notification” and waived his right as a reservist to “dwell time” protection — a mandated period between mobilizations during which the military is barred from calling up service members for mandatory duty.
Croci, at the time, was still in dwell time from a previous mobilization and surrendered the protection in order to obtain the involuntary deployment orders, according to records.
Croci, in an earlier interview, did not dispute the records provided to Newsday but said he also had phone conversations with Navy officials who encouraged him to deploy. He declined to name the officials, directing Newsday to the Navy’s Office of Information.
A Navy spokesman said, “We don’t have any access or knowledge of phone records that may exist between Naval officials and any reservist.”
Croci’s deployment to Afghanistan came amid a politically volatile period in his tenure as supervisor. The Islip Town Board in January 2013 voted unanimously to explore limiting Croci’s powers. He was also involved in litigation over the control of his aunt Adele Smithers’ assets. An evaluator in the case would find that Croci had “taken advantage” of Smithers for his financial benefit.