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Hempstead supervisor calls on indicted councilman to resign

Empty seat for Councilman Ed Ambrosino during today's

Empty seat for Councilman Ed Ambrosino during today's Hempstead Town Board meeting, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino on Tuesday called on indicted Councilman Ed Ambrosino to resign from his town board seat as he faces tax evasion and wire fraud charges.

Ambrosino, 52, of North Valley Stream, was arrested Friday on federal charges of income tax evasion and wire fraud for failing to pay more than $250,000 in federal income taxes. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bond. He did not attend Tuesday’s town board meeting — the first since his arrest.

Santino issued a statement several hours after the town board meeting ended.

“Throughout my career in public service I have held steadfast to the belief that elected officials must hold themselves to the highest standards of ethics and integrity,” Santino said in the statement. “Upon assuming the office of town supervisor, I declared that my administration would have ‘zero tolerance’ for any undertaking or action that conveys even the slightest appearance of impropriety or undermines the people’s trust in their town government.

“That statement was not mere words or empty rhetoric. Accordingly, given the recent federal indictment of Councilman Edward Ambrosino, I firmly believe that he should resign from the town board effective immediately.”

Ambrosino’s attorney, Dennis Lemke, said Ambrosino would continue to hold his council seat.

“My client is steadfast in his innocence and will not be resigning,” Lemke said.

Laura Gillen, Democratic candidate for supervisor, said Tuesday night that Republican elected officials are trying to distance themselves from recent scandals. Santino’s “sudden call” for Ambrosino’s resignation is a “desperate attempt” for the supervisor to shift the focus off his own failings, she said.

Gillen added that if Ambrosino can’t attend town meetings, “surely he must do the right thing and step down.”

Ambrosino was first appointed to the town board in 2003, representing Floral Park, Garden City and New Hyde Park.

He had previously served as Santino’s deputy supervisor. Santino replaced him in that role Monday with Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, the most junior member of the town board.

Ambrosino was barely mentioned at the town board meeting. Town Attorney Joe Ra, answering a question about him, said, “Councilman Ambrosino is absent today. Beyond that, I have no comment.”

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney abstained from voting on more than a quarter of the resolutions brought before the board, saying she wanted to review contracts to confirm there were no conflicts of interest.

Of her 16 abstentions during the meeting, King Sweeney said: “These items deal with contracts and the expenditure of town money. In light of recent events, I believe it is prudent to take a pause to review the town’s contracting process and confirm there are no conflicts of interest and that all necessary safeguards are in place.”

King Sweeney’s statement also comes a week after D’Esposito voted for a $2,500 raise for his mother, a secretary in the town’s highway department.

After the meeting, King Sweeney called on the town to hire an independent expert to review contracts to ensure no conflicts existed.

She said she didn’t have any “specific concerns” about the 16 resolutions she abstained from — their topics range from recycling collection to veterinary service payments to consulting service contracts. She said she wasn’t aware of any potential issues but “in light of recent events” — which she didn’t specify — she said she wanted further scrutiny.

“If everything’s great and clean and proper, that’s great,” she said.

Audience members at the town board meeting raised questions about the five-day delay in Santino asking for Ambrosino’s resignation.

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