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Editorial: What was role of politics in Islip scandal?

A Town of Islip tank truck sprays what

A Town of Islip tank truck sprays what appears to be water on a section of Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on Monday, June 30, 2014. This section of the park is among areas contaminated by illegal dumping, authorities said. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The possibility that politics played a role in the illegal dumping scandal in Islip has lingered in the air with its own odious whiff ever since news of the mess broke in April.

Now the smell grows stronger with reports that town Conservative Party leader Michael Torres was consulted by nervous Islip officials before a hauling company run by the son of two generous campaign contributors was told in January to remove tons of debris deposited at a Brentwood park. Two months later, a greater amount of material was dumped in the same park by trucks belonging to the parents.

The dumping itself -- at multiple sites -- is reprehensible. The possibility it was enabled by cozy political relationships is appalling.

We've seen this before. A political party gets its fingers on the levers of government and starts influencing operations. Bad judgment trumps sound reasoning, mistakes are made and everything blows up.

Is that the story of Islip now? The question is not easily dismissed.

At the heart of the scandal is the Datre family -- Thomas Jr., who owns the hauling firm, and his contractor parents, Thomas Sr. and Clara. The son removed debris in January. The town blames a company headed by Clara for the toxic dumping in March.

The parents are prolific fundraisers who contribute to Islip's Republican and Conservative parties. The couple's office was in the building owned by the law firm of Islip GOP boss Frank Tantone. Tantone has praised Datre Sr. and his fundraising abilities. Clara ran for town supervisor as a Republican in 2007. Tantone and Torres were on the transition team for Islip's GOP supervisor, Tom Croci. Conservative Party members were put in charge of the parks department after the party delivered 12 percent of Croci's votes; his winning margin was 0.7 percent.

What does it all mean? That's up to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota to sort out. He needs to pursue these threads to their ends -- even if that once again exposes how the stranglehold political leaders have on government operations inevitably is bad news for the public.