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Owner of dog care business sues Oyster Bay in sex-harassment retaliation dispute

Owner Melanie Nardiello, and her lawyer Richard L.

Owner Melanie Nardiello, and her lawyer Richard L. Hutchinson, stand inside the basement of the main care building at Two by Four dog daycare center in Oyster Bay, March 7, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The owner of an Oyster Bay dog walking and boarding business has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the town alleging officials retaliated against her for refusing the sexual advances of a commissioner.

Melanie Nardiello, owner of Two By Four New York Corp., alleged she was effectively denied a building permit and later persecuted because she had refused to have sex with town planning and development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito years earlier. She applied for the permit in 2012, but then built a prefabricated structure without a permit the following year. The town then tried to shut her down, alleging building-code violations, the suit said. Last year, a state judge stopped the town from closing her business while another suit filed in state court proceeds.

"The commissioner's acts were taken in retaliation for the plaintiff's refusal to perform the sexual acts he had solicited and his overall determination [to] use his power and authority to put the plaintiff's [sic] out of business," the lawsuit alleges.

In a statement from Chief Deputy Town Attorney Frank Scalera, the town said Nardiello made "wild allegations," but did not address them.

"This lawsuit is an apparent attempt to deflect attention from certain simple facts," he said in a statement. Scalera said Nardiello had illegally operated a business from her home and then moved the business into an "illegal building which posed a serious danger to the public."

The suit, filed Jan. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Central Islip, alleges Nardiello's civil rights were violated when she was denied due process by Ippolito and other town officials. She seeks unspecified damages.

The alleged incidents of sexual solicitation occurred several years ago, when she was working for a wine-distribution company and Ippolito ran a Syosset restaurant called Christiano's, her attorney, Richard Hutchinson of Oyster Bay, said. Christiano's was one of her accounts.

"On two occasions he made sexual advances to her, solicited that she perform a sexual act on him, which she refused to do," Hutchinson said. She had herself removed from the account, he said.

Later, she began a dog walking business and tried to expand. In October 2012, the suit alleges, when she went before Ippolito for a building permit for her business he said he didn't remember her but then without explanation said he would not give her a permit. The town left her in limbo, neither approving nor rejecting her application, the suit alleges.

The suit also alleges the town retaliated against the Oyster Bay engineering firm, Newport Engineering. Hutchinson said its principal, Nicholas DeSantis, testified the building was safe.

"Tough subject at this point," DeSantis said. DeSantis declined to say whether the town had retaliated. "I've seen improvement," he said.

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