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Oyster Bay consultant tells critic to take posts off Facebook

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto listens as

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto listens as Robert Ripp of Massapequa speaks to the Oyster Bay Town Board on March 22, 2016. Ripp has emerged as a sharp critic of the Venditto administration, which, in turn, alleged that he posted misleading or false information about the town on Facebook. Credit: Newsday / Ted Phillips

An Oyster Bay town consultant accused Massapequa resident Robert Ripp, a critic of the town government, of posting false information on his Facebook page at a town board meeting Tuesday that ran past midnight.

John Ellsworth, director of planning and environmental service for Hauppauge-based Cashin Spinelli & Ferretti LLC, told Ripp to remove the items.

Town Supervisor John Venditto told Ripp he had directed Ellsworth to “get to the bottom of some of the questions you’ve been raising.”

“We’re requesting him to remove the erroneous information from this Facebook page, barring that if he doesn’t respond we’ll have to pursue other avenues,” Ellsworth said on behalf of the town at the end of a 37-minute presentation that included exhibits.

Ripp, 54, a retired New York City police officer, regularly speaks at town board meetings and posts on his Facebook page documents obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests along with sometimes caustic commentary. In recent months, he has emerged as Venditto’s sharpest critic.

Having a town contractor research Ripp’s Facebook page drew consternation from Councilman Anthony Macagnone.

“I wonder how much that cost us?” Macagnone said Wednesday. “There’s better things to be done. I don’t think it was such a good idea.”

Town officials declined to say how much they paid Ellsworth for the research. Venditto said Ellsworth spent a week working on the presentation. A 2014 town contract shows that the town could pay from $110 to $175 an hour for Ellsworth’s work for the town.

Around midnight, the meeting’s public portion began with Ripp attempting to address the board. Venditto said that Ellsworth would speak first with prepared responses to Ripp’s questions from previous meetings.

Ellsworth started by talking about Facebook.

“The focus here are posts by Mr. Robert Ripp which we believe are in violation of . . . Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities,” Ellsworth said in his opening statement.

In one example, Ellsworth quoted a Ripp post that said “I have a funny feeling they absconded with the federal grant monies,” referring to a town project.

Ellsworth said such statements should be removed.

Ripp disagreed.

“Just because you say something is fact, doesn’t make it fact,” Ripp said in response to Ellsworth, adding that the town can complain to Facebook if it doesn’t like what he writes.

“If you have a problem with my Facebook page, complain to Facebook,” Ripp told the board afterward.

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