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Hempstead sanitation workers sue, saying they were punished

Hempstead Town Hall in an undated photo.

Hempstead Town Hall in an undated photo. Credit: Google

Two Hempstead sanitation workers have filed a pair of federal lawsuits against the town claiming they were denied promotions for not supporting Hempstead Republican clubs.

Robert Nicosia and James Diehl filed the lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Central Islip earlier this month. Court papers say they are longtime employees of Hempstead Sanitary District 6 in West Hempstead.

Hempstead Town officials said they were served with the lawsuit, but have no jurisdiction over the sanitation district and are not responsible for its actions.

Brian S. Sokoloff, the district’s Carle Place attorney, said promotions were not based on political activities. “We think the claims have no merit. It’s very easy to file a complaint in a federal courthouse to accuse anyone of anything. You have to have evidence to back it up,” Sokoloff said. “The promotions were made on thoroughly legitimate grounds.”

The Garden City attorney for both men, Jonathan A. Tand, said the town is liable because it issues paychecks to sanitation employees.

Nicosia said he has worked for the town for nearly 30 years and was active in the West Hempstead Republican Club. He said he was demoted from supervisor in 2010 after he stepped down as president of the club and stopped giving campaign contributions. He said his annual salary was reduced by $10,000, according to the lawsuit.

He was then sent to work on the back of a sanitation truck while other workers who were active in campaign functions were promoted to supervisor, his lawsuit states.

“Defendants favored employees who were aligned with the club,” the lawsuit states. “Further . . . defendants predicated promotions and disciplinary action upon an employee’s membership in, and affiliation with, the club.”

Diehl makes similar charges in his court papers. After he withdrew from the North Valley Stream Republican Club, he said he was retaliated against by the sanitation district and passed over for several promotions.

“Defendants adamantly refused to promote plaintiff [Diehl],” his lawsuit states. “Defendants blatantly lied to plaintiff [Diehl] and told him there were no available positions.”

The lawsuits claim the Town of Hempstead condoned and participated in retaliation against both men.

“The Town knew of the unethical and blatantly biased operations within District No. 6 and did nothing to alleviate or in any way remedy the situation,” the lawsuits state.

Last year, the town settled for $30,000 with an animal control officer who claimed she was denied a promotion for not participating in the Republican Party, according to court records.

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