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Long IslandNassau

Oceanside sanitation now being sued for $1M in taxpayer funds

Michael Scarlata was signed on to a five-year,

Michael Scarlata was signed on to a five-year, $240,000 consulting contract by the sanitation district in 2013. He was suspended with pay in June 2015, and the contract was terminated in December, two years early. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A former Oceanside Sanitation employee and taxpayers have amended their complaint and are now seeking to recoup more than $1 million from two ex-sanitation supervisors.

Plaintiffs Joseph Samoles and Dennis Rockefeller, Oceanside taxpayers, filed suit in November seeking reimbursement of $800,000 in retirement payouts and legal fees from Hempstead Sanitary District No. 7 and former supervisors Michael and Charles Scarlata.

The amended complaint, seeking about $200,000 in additional payments made to the Scarlatas, also added three of the five board members — Joseph Cibellis, Florence Mensch and Thomas Lanning — and the district’s former attorney Jack Libert.

Sanitation District officials and their Uniondale-based attorney, Jared Kasschau, reserved comment for their legal response, which is due in State Supreme Court in Nassau Jan. 21.

The new complaint cites figures compiled by SeeThroughNY, which shows Charles Scarlata received $198,000 in 2014, the year after he retired. It is unclear if it was part of his 2013 salary or retirement payout.

The database, sponsored by the Albany-based nonprofit think tank Empire Center for Public Policy, includes numbers for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2014. And it shows that Charles Scarlata also received a 2015 pension payment of $162,917.

SeeThroughNY reported Charles Scalarta received $1.4 million from 2009 to 2014. Michael Scarlata, his father, is not listed in the database.

Samoles and Rockefeller allege that the Scarlatas were illegally given retirement payments using taxpayer money.

A 2014 state comptroller’s audit said the retirement payments violated New York finance law, which is different from criminal law, and that the district should seek to recoup the funds.

The former employee Samoles and his attorney Austin Graff of the Carle Place-based Scher Law Firm, said they are seeking to recoup the funds on behalf of taxpayers. The special district sanitation commission collects about $8.8 million in taxes and provides garbage collection for about 13,000 residents.

“Our determination was these payments were unconstitutional, and we’re seeking to recover the money,” Graff said. “These numbers just don’t add up.”

Charles Scarlata was paid a one-day lump sum of $421,353 in 2012 after the sanitation district agreed to buy out his $25,000 annual retirement contract. It’s unclear if the settlement was included in the annual payments. He retired in October 2013.

Michael Scarlata retired in 1998, and he collected annual retirement payments of $26,217 until 2012, when district officials bought out the remaining $51,122.

The district also signed Michael Scarlata to a 5-year $240,000 consulting contract in 2013. He was suspended in June with pay and the board last month terminated his contract two years early.

Sanitation commissioners have directed their attorney to explore reimbursement of the payments and follow the audit’s recommendations, but they have not taken action. The next sanitation district meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 14 at the Oceanside Sanitation District Office, 90 Mott St.

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