Frederick Ippolito, the Oyster Bay Town planning and development commissioner charged with tax evasion after he allegedly failed to report more than $2 million in consulting fees from a town contractor, has taken a voluntary leave of absence, officials said.
Ippolito, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, requested the leave during a March 26 meeting with Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, to focus on his legal case and on recent, unspecified health issues, town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.
The indefinite leave was effective March 30.
Ippolito, 76, of Syosset, will use accrued sick, vacation and personal days during his leave, said Venditto, a Republican serving his ninth term. Town records show Ippolito, also a Republican, was paid $129,473 in 2013.
"It is difficult to strike an appropriate balance in a situation like this," Venditto said in a statement. "On the one hand, we all need to be mindful of the seriousness of the charges. On the other hand, we need to also be mindful that an individual is innocent until proven guilty."
Venditto said a leave of absence where Ippolito uses his accrued time "strikes that balance."
Ippolito's attorney, Anthony Capetola of Williston Park, did not respond to a request for comment about the leave. Capetola previously said he would "vigorously defend" the charges.
The town's planning and development department will be managed in the interim by deputy commissioners Timothy Zike and Diana Aquiar, Kane said.
John Capobianco, a spokesman for the Oyster Bay Democratic Committee, said the leave "was a baby step in the right direction. It's literally the least he could do."
Capobianco, who previously called on the town to fire Ippolito, said it would be improper for the commissioner to remain in the post, overseeing the department's day-to-day operations, while the investigation is ongoing.
Ippolito was charged March 20 with six counts of income tax evasion. Federal prosecutors said he failed to report $2,053,500 in consulting fees from 2008 to 2013 from Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. of Old Bethpage and from an unidentified member of the Lizza family.
If convicted, Ippolito faces 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
Ippolito was the town's planning and development commissioner from 1978 to 1987. He then worked for Lizza & Sons before returning to the town in 2009, court records show.
Ippolito indicated on his town financial disclosure statements that from 2009 to 2012 he was also paid by the Lizza Family Trust as a "consultant," prosecutors said.
Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. is one of largest road contractors in Nassau County and in the Town of Oyster Bay. The firm, representatives of which declined to comment, contributes heavily to candidates and elected officials from both parties, including Venditto.
Ippolito is a vice chairman of the Nassau Republican Party. Anthony Santino, spokesman for Nassau Republican chairman Joe Mondello, declined to comment Friday.
Ippolito is also president of CAI Associates, a consulting and snow removal business, and was an officer at Christiano's restaurant in Syosset, which is now closed.
With Paul LaRocco