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Bigotry can't be sanitized

Sen. Todd Kaminsky is joined by elected officials

Sen. Todd Kaminsky is joined by elected officials and community leaders as they call on Oceanside Sanitation Commissioner Ryan Hemsley to resign or for the board to take stronger action to remove him for hateful and anti-semitic facebook posts on Tuesday in Oceanside. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

It’s intolerable that a commissioner of the Oceanside Sanitation Department, Ryan Hemsley, made anti-Semitic, racist and hateful posts on Facebook. The commissioners deal with personnel and policy issues, and any hint of bigotry is unacceptable. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the $7,500 annual salary of a commissioner who has admitted posting and tolerating hateful commentary.

But it’s also unlikely that Hemsley can be forced out, even as a large and bipartisan collection of elected officials demands he resign.

"The Board is doing everything it can under the law to see he does not serve," Oceanside Sanitation Department attorney John Ciampoli said, before allowing that there aren’t many tools to remove him. Hateful social media posts are not illegal. Neither is lying about such posts, as Hemsley did, before admitting he posted some of the vile content. He claims it was years ago, and he has changed.

Ciampoli hoped to question Hemsley at last week’s commissioners’ meeting but Hemsley did not attend, claiming harassment and threats kept him away due to safety concerns. Ciampoli has no subpoena power, but the Nassau County district attorney and the state attorney general do. They should use it to get the truth, but it’s unlikely to lead to his removal.

A change in state law making removal for publicly exhibited bigotry is worth considering. Pressure on Hemsley to step down should continue, including a resolution from the Hempstead Town Board asking him to resign. And if Hemsley feels he cannot attend meetings safely, he clearly has no choice but to resign.

But if he will not quit, it will fall to the voters to get rid of Hemsley when his term is up in 2022, and they must.

— The editorial board