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Smithtown Democrats seek ethics inquiry

Smithtown Democrats have called for an ethics inquiry into allegations contained in a grand jury report that town officials pressured a developer to illegally tear down buildings.

In a letter read at a town board meeting Thursday, Smithtown Democratic Committee chairman Ed Maher said the town Board of Ethics should determine which officials may have used the promise of a $40,000 tax break to induce the developer to raze asbestos-laden buildings he owned in 2009.

Ethics board members, through a Town Hall employee, declined to comment "at this time." Republican Supervisor Patrick Vecchio also would not comment on Maher's letter.

A Suffolk grand jury said in a report this month that the demolition had placed neighbors of the property in danger. The report did not name town officials or the developer. No one was indicted or charged.

Maher's letter said a town official, identified by the grand jury as "Town Employee A," committed "a clear abuse of political power for personal profit" by persuading another town official to offer the tax abatement to an unnamed developer in exchange for demolishing the buildings. In an interview Friday, Maher cited a section of the grand jury report that quotes the developer saying Employee A wanted the buildings torn down because he was "running for re-election."

Town officials have said the developer was Salvatore DiCarlo, who demolished structures in 2009 at his defunct Main Street lumber yard.

"I am hoping for Smithtown's sake that something more than a slap on the wrist comes from this town ethics board investigation," Maher's letter said. " . . . Something has gone terribly wrong in Smithtown."

Vecchio dismissed some grand jury allegations, which he said were based on testimony from DiCarlo, whom he described as "a convicted felon." DiCarlo was convicted in 1998 for his role in overbilling the New York City school system for a construction project at a building he owned.

Smithtown Republican chairman William Ellis said the grand jury "found no wrongdoing." Vecchio and the town's four councilmen all are Republicans or Conservatives.

"I would say it's a lot of grandstanding going on by Mr. Maher and the Democrats," Ellis said.

Maher said Friday the grand jury probe was prompted by complaints by former councilwoman Patricia Biancaniello, a Democrat. Biancaniello has confirmed her role in the investigation.

"It's obvious that none of the Republicans reported what was going on," Maher said.

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