Assemb. Christine Pellegrino, a Long Island Democrat who made international news when she won a special election last month in a Republican district that supported Donald Trump, and her husband have nearly $186,000 in federal tax liens and are fighting foreclosure of their West Islip home, public records show.
The foreclosure documents, filed in Suffolk State Supreme Court against Pellegrino and her husband in November 2016 for nonpayment of an $893,000 mortgage note, list additional debts of nearly $300,000 in state tax liens; $1,520 for neighborhood association fees; and six Suffolk traffic tickets of $105 each.
Public records also show a 1993 bankruptcy for the assemblywoman, who filed for divorce in December.
Pellegrino’s debts were not disclosed during the May 23 special election called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after the appointment of former Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) as Oyster Bay supervisor.
The Democrat’s upset victory in the 9th Assembly District, which straddles southern Suffolk and Nassau, was cited in news reports across the world as an indication of voter backlash against Republican President Trump, who handily carried the longtime GOP district last fall.
Pellegrino, 48, a former public school teacher, had campaigned against political corruption in Albany. “I am a community leader, an outsider running to be an honest and ethical voice in Albany,” she told the Massapequa Post. The state teachers union funneled $200,000 to aid her campaign.
She was sworn in last Monday to a term that runs through next year.
Pellegrino referred questions about her debts to spokeswoman Laura Curiale, who said in an email: “The member of the Assembly filed for divorce in December of 2016, the issues concerning the foreclosure are all tied in with the divorce and there is a full workout arrangement and payment plan with the IRS. The foreclosure was a product of the economic crisis in 2007 which affected many families from Long Island and throughout the country.”
A political spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat who campaigned door to door in the district for Pellegrino, did not return a call for comment. Pellegrino’s husband, Vincent Pellegrino, declined to comment.
Public records show the Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against Pellegrino and her husband for $46,128 in 2011 and another for $139,865 in 2015.
The foreclosure filed by M&T Bank lists three state tax liens, filed from 2009 through 2010, totaling $297,147; a hospital judgment from 2014 for $24,367; a neighborhood association judgment of $1,520 from June 2016; and six traffic ticket liens from March 9, 2015 through March 23, 2016. It was not clear which Pellegrino incurred the tickets.
Asked about the liens, Curiale said the hospital bill “is not for Christine or any member of the Pellegrino family. The hospital billing records are inaccurate.”
Other public records show Pellegrino filed for personal bankruptcy in May 1993 under the name of Christine DiBartolo when she lived in East Meadow. The bankruptcy was discharged in October 1993. She did not respond to questions about the bankruptcy.
Pellegrino earned nearly $125,000 last year from the Baldwin school district, according to Seethroughny.net, a website that tracks public pensions and payrolls in New York.
Pellegrino defeated Thomas Gargiulo, a registered Conservative who also ran on the Republican line, in the special Assembly election. Gargiulo is a retired special education teacher who works part-time in Babylon, where Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer is town supervisor.
Fewer than 10,000 voters turned out in the district where 65,545 votes were cast in the Assembly race last year.
Jim Teese, a GOP Assembly operative who helped run Gargiulo’s campaign, acknowledged Pellegrino’s debts were not used against her in the special election. “I think there was a desire to try to stay positive in a campaign in which we thought we had a positive message.”
He called it “a tough race in a very low-turnout election. It is a seat we are totally capable of taking back in a general election.”
Teese denied making any deals with Democrats. He said Republicans did not sit on their hands during the election because Gargiulo was a member of the Suffolk Conservative party, which recently endorsed Schaffer’s pick, Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, for the district attorney race this fall.
“Anybody who suggests that Republicans and Conservatives did not want to keep the seat irrespective of the enrollment of the candidate is just silly,” Teese said.
Michael Torres, secretary of the Suffolk Conservative Party, could not be reached for comment.