Huntington Town officials released some of the results Friday of investigations conducted in 2020 by independent counsel into personnel matters involving Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and town board member Gene Cook, including a sexual harassment allegation against Lupinacci that was found to be unsubstantiated.
An investigation found that allegations that Cook violated the town’s code of conduct were also unsubstantiated.
The heavily redacted reports are tied to resolutions approved last year to hire outside counsel to conduct investigations at a cost of at least $77,000 in legal fees.
The investigation into Lupinacci, a Republican, involved the relationship and texts between the supervisor and an unidentified lower-level employee, that officially came to the attention of town officials Feb. 24, 2020.
The investigation was initiated by the town board and not a complainant. The texts came to light after an employee, who according to the report, went to high school with the subject of the investigation, told a former town employee who now works as a vendor for the town that the first employee had screen shots of the texts, which were shared via Snapchat. The information made its way to town board member Joan Cergol.
The report said Lupinacci texted the unidentified lower-level employee to come to his house for drinks at 2 a.m. and when the person declined, Lupinacci, according to the report, said the person was ungrateful. The investigation also looked at accusations that Lupinacci made sexual advances toward the employee but was rebuffed because the employee said he was not gay.
The report said the two have known each other for a few years and exchanged many texts and phone conversations in that time, both personal and professional.
When interviewed, the employee denied Lupinacci ever made any sexual advances or stalked the person, which had also been alleged. The employee also said he was able to get a home through the town’s affordable-housing lottery, the report said, but not with any involvement from Lupinacci. The employee has since left town employment.
The New York-based Jackson Lewis law firm conducted interviews and concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated but also said both Lupinacci and the employee were not credible in their recollection of events, their responses to questions and sometimes made contradictory statements.
"In sum, I could not substantiate any allegation of sexual harassment, but I was stymied in my attempt to uncover all the facts by what I believe is deliberate misrepresentation and/or withholding of relevant (even critical) information," the report said.
Lupinacci's office referred calls to the Huntington Republican Committee, which is in the midst of determining a slate for the November elections, including a candidate for supervisor. Committee chair Tom McNally said the investigation was politically motivated and a waste of taxpayer money that revealed nothing but hearsay.
"The Republican committee is not going to be intimidated or bullied or impressed one bit by nonsense and lies," McNally said.
The town board approved the investigation by a 5-0 vote, according to town documents.
Separately, Lupinacci is accused in a lawsuit filed in December 2018 by Northport resident Brian Finnegan, 28. He says Lupinacci, a former state assemblyman and his then-boss, sexually harassed him and assaulted him in an Albany hotel room in 2017. That case is still winding through the courts.
Cook, who has been teasing a run for supervisor in November when Lupinacci’s term ends, made the proposal to release the reports at the December town board meeting because he said residents needed to know how their taxpayer money was being spent.
Cook was accused of violating the town’s code of conduct by a complainant in seven allegations, including forcing the complainant to research legal issues already deemed dead ends and raising conflict-of-interest issues with the state attorney general.
The case was investigated for the town by the law firm of Sokoloff Stern in Carle Place.
"If it was a legitimate complaint, 100% anyone should be investigated," Cook said. "When there are complaints put out there that try to force an elected official's hand, that’s a problem."