The Suffolk County Board of Ethics has recommended the firing or suspension of a Department of Social Services employee for engaging in prohibited business dealings as part-owner of a day care center that received $255,000 in payments from the county agency, and failing to disclose her connection to the business.
The unanimous decision issued late Wednesday also imposed $37,000 in fines on the employee, Ebun Senbanjo.
The board recommended that the county “terminate all business dealings with Bright Start Early Childhood Program,” in which Senbanjo was a 47.5 percent owner. County officials say 25 children receive subsidized day care from Bright Start.
The board began a preliminary investigation in 2015, later issued subpoenas and held three days of hearings, in which Senbanjo’s husband Larry Oluwo, who also owned 47.5 percent of the center testified.
Thomas McCarron, Senbanjo’s attorney, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. When Newsday called the day care center, Oluwo hung up.
“I am very concerned about the ethics report,” said John O’Neill, Suffolk social services commissioner, who said his office asked for the ethics probe.
Asked about the possible firing of Senbanjo, Neill said he could not comment on specific personnel matters.
According to county records, Senbanjo is a welfare examiner I, earning $62,614 annually, who has worked for Suffolk since 2000.
The ethics ruling said Senbanjo failed to follow the county’s conflict of interest laws, which bar any ownership in a firm that does business with the county and required her to disclose her interest in the business to her immediate supervisor and the board.
According to the ethics ruling, Senbanjo admitted during a deposition that she was part-owner of Bright Start. But on her employment form with the county in 2011, she stated she did not have outside employment and never told superiors of her involvement with the day care center.
Her husband has said his wife “did not play any role” in the day care center operations, even though she was listed on various documents from 2011 to 2016 as “administrator,” director” and “head teacher.”
Oluwo also said he signed his wife’s name on official documents and correspondence with the state regulatory authority.
The ethics board said Oluwo’s “testimony is not credible.”