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Political donations case referred to Hempstead ethics board

Thomas Willdigg, the Hempstead Town compliance officer, seen

Thomas Willdigg, the Hempstead Town compliance officer, seen in 2006, was appointed to the role in January. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

A company formed by Hempstead Town Compliance Officer Thomas Willdigg has given $800 to local Republican committees since the town board appointed him to the post in January,raising questions about whether the contributions violate a provision in Hempstead’s code.

TCK Investigations Inc. of North Massapequahas made two contributions to the Nassau County Republican Committee totaling $700, and one to the North Valley Stream Republican Committee worth $100, state campaign finance records show. Both organizations are led byJoseph Cairo, the chairman of the Nassau committee and the longtime leader of the North Valley Stream club.

Willdigg is listed as TCK’s chief executive in New York Department of State records,and TCK’s website describes him as the president of the private investigation company.

Willdigg, who is tasked with reviewing Hempstead’s contracts for waste and corruption,said in an interview Monday he did not himself make the contributions from TCK to the local Republican groups, and while he “probably” knows who did, he declined to say.

“I stepped aside from the day-to-day operations of the company,”he said.”TCK is being controlled by somebody else now,” he added, although he declined to say who.

The town code states: “the Compliance Officer and staff shall avoid any appearance of bias or impropriety” and shall not “make a contribution to a political organization, a sitting public officer, or a candidate for public office.”

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said Monday she referred the case to the town’s ethics board for review.

“It appears that there’s a code violation to me, but I’ll let them determine that,” she said. “If they find that the ethics code has been violated by Mr. Willdigg, then I will be calling for his resignation.”

The contributions were referenced by a speaker during the public comment session at last week’s town board meeting.

Diane Madden, Libertarian candidate for town supervisor, called on the town board in a news release Monday to request Willdigg’s resignation or fire him.

Don Clavin, the Republican candidate for supervisor, said in an interview Monday: “I don’t know anything about his company,” and “if Willdigg said he hasn’t made any contributions, then he hasn’t.”

Gillen, a first-term Democrat, is running for re-election.

Hempstead council members Bruce Blakeman and Erin King Sweeney first pushed to hire an internal investigator to keep tabs on town contracts in April 2017, and the board created the compliance officer position that December.The board hired Willdigg, a former Nassau County detective, in January 2019.

King Sweeney, now the leader of the board’s Republican majority, did not respond to a request for comment.

Campaign finance records show TCK also contributed $125 to the Nassau Republican Committee on Jan. 18,four days before the town board appointed Willdigg to his $150,000-a-year job.In total, TCK has contributed $4,325 to the Nasasu County and North Valley Stream Republican committees since 2013.

TCK’s clients include the Nassau Regional Off Track Betting Corp., for which the company has served as a security consultant since 2012, an OTB spokesman said. Cairo is president of Nassau OTB. The spokesman said TCK was not hired by Cairo, but rather by the OTB “administration.” The company does not report to Cairo, the spokesman said.

OTB pays TCK about $45,000 annually, the spokesman said.

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