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Hempstead Town camp parents sue, alleging privacy laws violated

Camp Anchor families and other special needs advocates on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 decried a letter sent to them urging them to vote for Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino. (Credit: Newsday/Stefanie Dazio)

Parents of special-needs Camp Anchor participants on Sunday announced they are filing a class-action lawsuit alleging that a Hempstead Town attorney and his wife violated privacy and confidentiality laws when they sent a letter to campers’ families urging them to vote for Town Supervisor Anthony Santino.

William J. Muller III and Diana Bianculli-Muller, both of whom work for the town, wrote a letter dated Oct. 31 saying their son Richard also attends Camp Anchor and that increased activities there were “only made possible” because of the support of Santino, who is running in Tuesday’s election, and the town board.

“We are asking you to please join us in voting for the re-election of Anthony Santino for Town Supervisor because we personally know how he feels about the Anchor Program and the important service it provides to our Township’s special needs community,” they wrote.

Camp Anchor families and other special-needs advocates announced the lawsuit at a news conference Sunday morning outside Town Hall with Democratic supervisor candidate Laura Gillen, who previously volunteered at the camp, and attorney Jeff Gold, who is running for the county legislature as a Democrat.

Gold said he filed the lawsuit online Sunday morning and the defendants are to be served Monday.

Camp Anchor — Answering the Needs of Citizens with Handicaps through Organized Recreation — offers programs for town children and adults with special needs, according to its website. There are after-school and Saturday programs for participants, as well as a summer program in Lido Beach. The camp has a waiting list for those interested in participating in its programs.

Muller is currently Santino’s legal counsel and formerly clerk for the Nassau County Legislature. Bianculli-Muller is a deputy town clerk.

Three parents of campers, as well as a legal guardian and two campers themselves, filed the lawsuit against the town, Santino and Muller, according to a copy of the documents that was handed out at the news conference.

The lawsuit is being filed in State Supreme Court in Queens because “Santino has a role in the selection of judges in Nassau County and a fair trial may not be obtained there,” according to the copy of the document.

Muller and Matt Coleman, Santino’s campaign spokesman, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said the list of camp families’ addresses is publicly available.

“Mr. Muller acquired such a list, in his capacity as a private individual, in response to a properly executed Freedom of Information Law request,” Deery said in a statement issued Sunday.

The plaintiffs, who are identified only by their initials, are each seeking $50,000 in damages, the lawsuit states.

Noah Probert, 29, and his mother, Sandra Probert, 66, of Westbury attended the news conference. Sandra Probert received the letter and Noah Probert, a longtime Camp Anchor participant, is part of the lawsuit.

“I truly believe what they’ve done here is unacceptable,” he said. “What’s going on with this is terrible.”

Milagros Vicente, 49, of Valley Stream, also received the letter on behalf of her 29-year-old son.

“How was this individual allowed to obtain our children’s information?” she said of Muller, calling Camp Anchor a safe haven. “I didn’t know who this person was.”

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