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New commissioner named for troubled Islip Town parks department

Kerry Sloane Bassett was named Islip parks commissioner

Kerry Sloane Bassett was named Islip parks commissioner on Jan. 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Town of Islip.

The Islip Town Board has named a new commissioner for its troubled parks department, which has been under investigation by the Suffolk County district attorney's office as part of an illegal-dumping probe.

Kerry Sloane Bassett, 39, a deputy Islip Town attorney, was named to the $101,000-a-year post by the town board at its yearly organization meeting Monday at Town Hall.

"It's a difficult and different time here than it was 20, 30 years ago, where you might have plucked somebody from the parks department who had worked their way up," Bassett said. "But right now, I think everyone would agree that they needed a different point of view."

She replaces Tom Owens, Islip's commissioner of public works, who also had held the commissioner's post since May, when then-parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. was forced to resign following public disclosure of District Attorney Thomas Spota's criminal probe into illegal dumping.

Spota's investigation began in April in Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, where an estimated 50,000 tons of debris laced with toxins was dumped illegally. Dozens of parks employees were interviewed by Spota's office, which convened a special grand jury in September.

Last month, Montuori and his secretary Brett A. Robinson, who was fired days after Montuori resigned, were each arraigned on 12 criminal counts, including endangering public health, safety or the environment, official misconduct and conspiracy because of their alleged roles in allowing the dumping to occur.

The town remains without an elected supervisor. Tom Croci resigned last week to be sworn in to the State Senate seat he won in November. Eric Hofmeister, who was appointed deputy town supervisor when Croci took a yearlong military leave from summer 2013 to 2014, has resumed that role, which is a nonvoting position.

At the time the dumping scandal broke, the parks department was led by Montuori, a Conservative Party member, while Councilman Anthony Senft -- the town board's sole Conservative -- was the board's liaison to the department. The town, at the behest of Croci, has since disbanded its liaison system.

Bassett spent two years as an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, where she worked in the district court bureau and domestic violence unit, she said. Before joining Islip as an assistant town attorney in July 2012, she ran her own law practice in Central Islip, specializing in appeals and child advocacy.

She is a Republican, according to voter registration records. The GOP holds a majority on the board, with three council members.

Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who made the motion to approve the appointment, said Bassett's skills as a former prosecutor "will come in very handy" while the town deals with cleaning up Clemente park.

"She has a legal background and she has experience in managing people and managing projects, so we thought she would be a good fit for the job," Bergin Weichbrodt said.

In 2013, Bassett earned $61,653, according to payroll records; she earned $80,000 in 2014.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ISLIP DUMPING PROBE:

APRIL District Attorney Thomas Spota launches criminal probe into illegal dumping at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

MAY Islip Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. is forced to resign; his secretary, Brett A. Robinson, is fired.

MAY-JUNE Investigation into illegal dumping widens to Veterans Way in Islandia, a private lot in Central Islip and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park.

DECEMBER Six men are charged for their alleged roles in illegal dumping in and around Islip. Montuori and Robinson are each charged with 12 counts including endangering public health, safety or the environment, official misconduct and conspiracy.

JANUARY Islip Supervsior Tom Croci vacates his seat for the State Senate; Eric Hofmeister once again resumes his nonvoting deputy supervisor role. Deputy Town Attorney Kerry Sloane Bassett is appointed by the town board as the new parks commissioner.

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