Former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, whose long career in government ended with a 2019 guilty plea on corruption charges, died early Tuesday, his family said. He was 70.
Venditto died at Good Shepherd Hospice Center in Rockville Centre of cancer, his son Michael Venditto, of Massapequa said. Venditto was diagnosed with the disease earlier this year, according to his son.
A Republican from Massapequa, John Venditto served 10 two-year terms as Oyster Bay supervisor. He left office in the middle of his last term in January 2017 as a federal corruption case was pending against him.
He was acquitted of those charges in 2018 but pleaded guilty last July in Nassau County Court to a felony corruption charge and misdemeanor official misconduct. Venditto lost his law license but avoided a prison sentence.
Michael Venditto, a former state senator, said his father should be remembered for his accomplishments in office, which he said included new and upgraded parks and beaches.
“He just loved the residents of the Town of Oyster Bay," Venditto said in a telephone interview. "…That’s what he lived for. He loved to help people.”
John Venditto, a lifelong Massapequa resident, held positions as Oyster Bay town councilman, town attorney and supervisor during a long career that began five years after he received his law degree in 1975 from St. John's University.
He won some supervisor races with more than 70% of the vote. But amid corruption probes and the town's mounting debt, Venditto won his final election in 2015 by a mere 99 votes over Democrat John Mangelli.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a longtime friend, said Venditto remained unbowed through the legal travails that effectively ended his career.
“John was a good friend. He went through a lot of tough times, but he never lost his class or stature.” King said. “When people look at the whole record, he was to me a very dedicated lawyer, counselor, town supervisor. Nobody’s perfect, but I never saw any hint of malice in him.”
Democrats, usually his political adversaries, remembered Venditto as an avuncular presence in Oyster Bay and Nassau politics.
"Although we didn’t always agree, John was a gentleman and I had tremendous respect for him," said Town of Oyster Bay Democratic Chairman David Mejias. "He was a larger than life presence in Oyster Bay politics."
Former Supervisor Lewis Yevoli, one of Venditto's predecessors and for whom Venditto served as town attorney, said he was "conscientious" and a trusted adviser.
“He was a very competent town attorney, I will say that,” Yevoli said. “What happened in the later years, I think, that was more the individuals he was surrounded with.
Venditto and then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano were charged by federal authorities in October 2016 in a 13-count indictment alleging they received bribes and kickbacks from businessman Harendra Singh.
The wide-ranging indictment said Venditto and Mangano schemed to award Singh contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In exchange, prosecutors said, both received various perks from Singh.
Venditto was acquitted in 2018. A mistrial was declared in the first trial of Mangano and his wife Linda, who also was charged. Both were convicted last March of conspiracy, bribery and other charges.
Venditto was arraigned in June 2017 on state charges following a 14-month probe by Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas into public corruption in Oyster Bay. The charges centered on allegations that Venditto advocated the approval of rezoning applications for a $150 million senior citizens complex in which then town planning commissioner Frederick Ippolito had an interest.
Venditto entered a guilty plea to two counts last July and was sentenced to a three-year conditional discharge.
Singas called the plea "a significant admission of corrupt actions at the highest level of town government."
Michael Venditto said his father pleaded guilty to spare his family the "trauma" of a trial.
“It was obviously a difficult time, as it would be for anybody," Venditto said. "With that said, Dad always carried the truth in his heart. … He always carried his head high.”
John Venditto and his wife Christine married on March 26, 1977, and raised their three children in Massapequa. He was elected to the Oyster Bay town council in 1980 and later was appointed town attorney. He won his first race for supervisor in 1997.
“He was such a wonderful, beautiful man," Michael Venditto said. "I thank God every day that he was my dad. He was a tremendous mentor, a man of great wisdom, a very dedicated public servant and as good a public servant as he was, I think he was a better dad."
“We’re going to miss him dearly but we do believe he’s going to continue to watch over us from a better place, Venditto said. "I do believe he left a positive legacy on the Town of Oyster Bay and the community of Massapequa.”
Along with his son Michael, John Venditto is survived by his wife, Christine, son Nicholas and daughter Joanna, all of Massapequa, and two grandchildren.
A wake for Venditto will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Massapequa Funeral Home.
With Bridget Murphy, Candice Ferrette and Ted Phillips