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Oceanside sanitation officials suspend consultant Mike Scarlata with pay

Michael Scarlata, leaves the Oceanside Sanitation Department on

Michael Scarlata, leaves the Oceanside Sanitation Department on Mott Street in Oceanside on Nov. 17, 2009. Credit: James Carbone

Oceanside sanitation commissioners voted Thursday to place consultant Mike Scarlata on paid leave while they review his $62,000 contract and a state audit calling for him to return about $391,000 in pension funds.

The five-member board for Sanitary District 7 met with Scarlata in closed session during yesterday's monthly meeting. Afterward, board members said they had considered several personnel issues, including a motion by newly elected Commissioner John Mannone to review Scarlata's contract.

The board voted 3-2 after the executive session to approve the motion. Commissioners Tom Lanning, Ed Scharfberg and Mannone voted in favor, while chairman Joe Cibellis and Commissioner Florence Mensch opposed the motion.

Board members did not comment on the resolution during the meeting. But Mannone had said he wanted Scarlata removed to change the culture of leadership and for him to repay funds as the state audit suggested.

Scarlata, 81, is a retired sanitation general supervisor and paid consultant to the board on a five-year contract that pays $62,000 annually, plus benefits.

The resolution directed the sanitation district's outside attorneys with the Uniondale-based Forchelli law firm to review Scarlata's contract and the recommended recouping of pension funds.

Board members ordered an indefinite leave of absence with full pay while the contract is reviewed. The resolution ordered that Scarlata stop attending board meetings and interacting with board members or sanitation employees.

The sanitation district serves 13,000 homes and 950 businesses in Oceanside and collects about $8.8 million in taxes.

"The board is just doing what they feel is right," Scarlata said outside the meeting.

The state comptroller's office filed an audit in December that indicated Scarlata and his son, Charles Scarlata, wrongly received payments from their retirement plans.

Mike Scarlata retired in 1998 and received $391,000 during the next five years.

The district had no legal authority to enter into deferred compensation agreements, according to the state comptroller. As such, the payments violated New York finance law, and auditors recommended the board try to recoup the funds. Board members said they would address collecting the funds with their general counsel next month.

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