A Great Neck Park District supervisor has filed a federal...

A Great Neck Park District supervisor has filed a federal lawsuit against his employer and two top officials, alleging the pair retaliated against him after he endorsed an outside candidate for a commissioner seat. The litigation comes at a time when the district faces a separate lawsuit in state court that alleges a recent district election was unfair and used illegal absentee ballot methods.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

A Great Neck Park District supervisor has filed a federal lawsuit against his employer and two top officials, alleging the pair retaliated against him after he endorsed an outside candidate for a commissioner seat.

Scott MacDonald, 54, of Great Neck, filed the Feb. 5 lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York. It claims management began violating his rights after he openly endorsed park district commissioner candidate Robert Lincoln, instead of supporting incumbent Frank Cilluffo in a December 2022 election.

The filing alleges after Cilluffo won the election, he and district superintendent Jason Marra cut MacDonald's overtime, denied him staff and tools to properly do his job and then in December 2023 transferred him from supervisor of parks to a “less desirable” position as supervisor of landscaping. 

The Great Neck Park District's general counsel, Cilluffo and Marra didn't respond to requests for comment Thursday.

An attorney for MacDonald, a 25-year park district veteran, said his client lost between $15,000 to $20,000 in 2023 after he was denied overtime following the 2022 election.

“It is very disappointing and upsetting that a job, where he dedicated his professional life, is treating him in such a malicious, vindictive, retaliatory way,” MacDonald’s attorney, David Ehrlich, said in an interview. “He has to go to work every day and deal with supervisors who are purposely trying to get you and hurt you and humiliate you.”

MacDonald’s claim comes shortly after 2023 commissioner candidate Gordon Charlop filed an unrelated lawsuit against the district in state court in December. It alleged the election Charlop lost earlier that month was “unfair” and involved “illegal” absentee ballot procedures.

The Great Neck resident has asked a judge to throw out the results and grant him access to absentee ballots records. Attorneys for the park district have called that election “lawful and proper” and filed a motion to have Charlop's case dismissed on the grounds that the court has no standing to interfere.

The parties are due back in court next month. 

In MacDonald's lawsuit, the litigant further alleges Marra made it clear in a staff meeting shortly after the 2022 election that he and Cilluffo were “upset and angry” with workers who hadn't supported Cilluffo’s candidacy.

The suit alleges Marra also told staff at the meeting “that if they stayed quiet” and supported him and Cilluffo, they would get raises, but “those who raised any criticism” of them or their administration wouldn't.

The lawsuit says the administration cut MacDonald's staff significantly in spring 2023. It went from six full-time employees, one full-time seasonal worker and up to 21 other seasonal staffers, to just two full-time workers and four seasonal workers.

The lawsuit also alleges those staff cuts caused problems in the district, which Marra and Cilluffo often would blame on MacDonald.

Ehrlich said in an interview that months ago he sent a letter on behalf of MacDonald to the administration detailing his client's grievances, but the retaliation only intensified. 

MacDonald's lawsuit says Cilluffo in December saw him taking part, while off duty, in a New York Rangers ice hockey program with his son at a district facility. The next day, Cilluffo changed a policy for the program, mandating that parents have to get park district approval to participate, the filing alleges.

Later in December, district officials transferred MacDonald to the landscaping department, which Ehrlich said requires his client to do more manual labor. 

The attorney added in an interview that his client had “no choice but to file the lawsuit in order to protect himself.”

Paperwork submitted with the civil filing lists a $1 million demand. The lawsuit asks for a declaration that the district unlawfully retaliated against MacDonald, along with damages for reasons including lost compensation and emotional pain and suffering.

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