The Nassau district attorney’s office doesn’t have to rehire a special investigator accused of interfering with an Oyster Bay corruption probe by allegedly leaking the existence of a wiretap to targets, a judge has ruled.
Instead, the labor dispute involving the former employee, Michael Falzarano — who says the allegations against him are without merit — will go to a new arbitrator for consideration as the case continues.
State Supreme Court Justice Randy Sue Marber wrote in a Jan. 7 decision that the first labor arbitrator, John E. Sands, “failed to review potentially inculpatory evidence as to whether Falzarano engaged in the alleged misconduct” after Falzarano challenged his June 2017 firing.
The judge’s ruling comes after Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas last year challenged the arbitrator’s decision reinstating Falzarano. She fired Falzarano the same day former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and others with ties to the municipality pleaded not guilty to state corruption charges.
Singas spokesman Brendan Brosh said in a statement Thursday that Sands’ decision “was so outrageous and bizarre that we sought court intervention to ensure that the District Attorney’s office was not forced to reinstate an investigator whose misconduct imperiled a highly-sensitive public corruption investigation.”
He added: “We are grateful that the Court agreed, and vacated the entire decision as irrational, contrary to public policy, and beyond Arbitrator Sands’ authority.”
Falzarano, 60, is a former NYPD lieutenant who was the longtime president of the union that represents investigators at the district attorney’s office.
The district attorney’s office had alleged in administrative charges against Falzarano that he told an unnamed “target” about an investigation involving wiretaps and was seen twice in a hallway where only investigators assigned to the Oyster Bay wiretap probe were allowed.
The charges also alleged Falzarano violated a directive by being near a special grand jury and a witness and trying to get information on the case from other investigators.
Court papers show investigators assigned to the wiretap intercepted four communications between probe targets suggesting Falzarano disclosed the existence of the wiretap to the targets.
But Falzarano’s attorney, David Davis, had argued before Marber in September that the arbitrator’s decision to reinstate his client's employment should be upheld. He said that no charges against Falzarano had been proved and the Nassau County Investigators Police Benevolent Association has a contract that provides for binding arbitration.
“We don’t think there’s any basis to vacate this award, as repugnant as the county might find it,” Davis, who is based in Islandia, said at the time.
Davis didn't respond to an inquiry Thursday.
In awarding Falzarano his job back, Sands also had accused the district attorney’s office of breaking the law. He said in his decision that Singas’ office “brought these disciplinary charges based on wiretap evidence that improperly disclosed the existence of eavesdropping warrants and sealed court records.”
Singas called that allegation false in a Newsday interview in September outside Marber’s courtroom, vowing her office would “fight back hard.”
In her ruling, Marber said the arbitrator “erroneously concluded” that Singas’ office broke the law.
The judge found that at the time the district attorney’s office filed disciplinary charges against Falzarano, the corruption investigation was finished and the eavesdropping warrant already had been disclosed in court and in news coverage.
Former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and several other people surrendered Thursday, June 29, 2017, to face what sources said were corruption charges. Venditto walked in to the Nassau County district attorney's office shortly before 7 a.m.