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Oyster Bay files report on complaints, and the complainant

Robert Ripp, poses for a portrait among the

Robert Ripp, poses for a portrait among the stacks of court documents in his battles with the town of Oyster Bay, at his home in Massapequa, Feb. 18, 2015. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Oyster Bay’s report to the Nassau County district attorney about alleged wrongdoing by town employees included a critique of resident Robert Ripp, who made the allegations, according to documents released last week.

The Feb. 20, 2015, report was prepared by Oyster Bay Special Counsel Thomas Sabellico and included a nine-page letter to the public corruption bureau describing Ripp, characterizing his behavior as “highly irregular,” and offering rebuttals of his allegations. The town also sent correspondence between Ripp and town officials to the district attorney’s office.

The town made the report public last week after a lawsuit filed by Newsday over the release of public records.

Ripp had alleged that town code enforcement officials disregarded evidence when the town prosecuted him for alleged code violations. He was charged with criminal violations of the town code in 2012 — for building a cement pad on his property without a permit, parking a trailer on the cement pad and not constructing proper drainage for the cement pad.

The cement pad didn’t exist and the town later dropped those charges but added additional charges. Sabellico’s report said the cement pad charges “were based on a reasonable interpretation of the evidence . . . but were subsequently deemed inaccurate.” Ripp was found guilty of a misdemeanor for parking his boat on his lawn in February 2015 and was fined $150. He became a regular critic of town government.

Ripp said the town’s report was an attempt to discredit him and “to cover up everything that I’ve been discovering.”

Sabellico said the town was being transparent in providing information about Ripp as well as his allegations.

“We gave the DA all the information we had and provided in the context within which we knew it,” Sabellico said.

Sabellico’s report addressed a dozen allegations raised by Ripp claiming a double standard existed for town employees such as Deputy Town Attorney Donna Swanson parking boats on unpaved surfaces at her house without penalty. Ripp provided photographs to the town of Swanson’s property with the boats but the report said the photographs could not be used as evidence and that inspectors sent to her house did not witness what the photographs showed.

Sabellico wrote that Ripp “has engaged in a pattern of behavior which . . . can be characterized as highly irregular” and that he had “carried his behavior to an extreme level.” That included posting recordings of town employees on YouTube, sending complaints to town officials and employees via fax and email, asking Town Supervisor John Venditto to acknowledge his accusations against town employees and officials, and filing Freedom of Information Law requests, according to the report.

The town had withheld the document, citing an exemption for documents compiled for the purpose of law enforcement. On July 8, state Supreme Court Judge Leonard Steinman ordered Oyster Bay to release documents sought by Newsday but reserved his decision on the Sabellico report until District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office had weighed in. In a July 13 letter to the judge, Singas’ office wrote that it “ . . . has no pending investigation that would be compromised by the public release of this report.”

Last week the town released the report plus 31 pages of additional material and Singas’ office released the report plus 87 pages of additional material.

Singas’ office said in a statement Monday that it had released all documents from the report. Oyster Bay officials have not said why their release contained fewer documents.

One allegation from Ripp prompted an investigation by the New York Department of State over whether Swanson had violated state law by notarizing a filing with the town building department regarding her property. The Department of State, which licenses notaries, said in a statement last week that an investigation “determined that while there may have been some impropriety, the conduct at issue did not warrant commencement of a disciplinary proceeding.”

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