The Oceanside Sanitation Commission has fired consultant Mike Scarlata amid pressure from the state comptroller to recoup $800,000 in retirement payments from the former district supervisor and his son.
The Sanitation Commission for Hempstead District No. 7 voted 3-1 to terminate Scarlata’s five-year contract with three years and about $144,000 remaining. Oceanside board member Joe Cibellis voted against the motion with trustee Florence Mensch abstaining from the vote last week.
Scarlata, 82, was signed in 2013 to a five-year $240,000 contract and health benefits through 2018 to offer consulting services to the board as it considered public votes, legal matters and other district business during executive session. Scarlata’s last $4,000 payment was made in November.
The board suspended Scarlata in July, as he was placed on paid administrative leave while commissioners considered a state comptroller’s audit critical of the district and its payouts to Scarlata and his son, Charles Scarlata. Both served as supervisors and received lucrative retirement payouts of about $400,000 each.
Sanitation commissioners met last week to consider terminating Scarlata’s contract. After a three-hour executive session, the board approved the motion to terminate his contract. Scarlata attended the meeting but did not comment. He could not be reached later.
Commissioner John Mannone said the board’s Uniondale-based attorney, Jared Kasschau, advised the panel they were “on sound legal ground” in terminating the contact.
“The contract was unnecessary and performing a function that should have been performed by district employees,” Mannone said. “It is a waste of taxpayer dollars to hire a consultant to do work staff can do anyway.”
Scarlata received a $391,000 payout from 1998 to 2013 following his retirement from the district, while his son received $421,353 from 2012 through 2013. A state comptroller report issued in December 2014 said the payments violated New York finance law and advised the district to seek to recoup the payments. Mannone said the board is discussing clawbacks of the payments, but no decision has been made.
A former sanitation worker, Joseph Samoles, filed a class-action lawsuit against the district last month seeking to recoup the funds on behalf of taxpayers. A judge rejected a restraining order last month seeking to stop payments because it would have breached Scarlata’s consulting contract.
Samoles’ Carle Place attorney, Austin Graff, said he argued the contract was illegal because it was not processed through the state’s civil service commission with a competitive bid.
Graff said he plans to file an amended complaint by Jan. 6, to recoup the retirement payments and make additional unspecified claims.
“The contract was illegal from the beginning, so this was a good first step,” Graff said.