Islip Supervisor Tom Croci Tuesday rebuked town leaders and the oversight that led to the illegal dumping of thousands of tons of contaminated debris in town while he was deployed in Afghanistan.
During a State of the Town Address at town hall, Croci made his first public remarks on the scandal since he returned and pledged to review actions by the town board during his yearlong absence.
He made a special apology for the dumping in Brentwood's Roberto Clemente Park, one of four dumping sites being investigated by the Suffolk County district attorney's office and a centerpiece in the redevelopment of the mostly Latino community.
"I apologize on behalf of the Town of Islip for what has transpired in [the park] and in town hall during my deployment," he said. "The situation is abhorrent, and I share the anger, the embarrassment, the frustration of our families, our friends and our neighbors at the failure of leadership and oversight by some in our town while I was overseas."
A U.S. Navy commander and Republican, Croci returned July 2 from active duty as an intelligence officer. Croci had left his party in charge -- the board has three GOP members and one Conservative party member. His deputy supervisor, Eric Hofmeister, served as a non-voting acting supervisor during Croci's deployment.
In a statement, the four town board members said, "We look forward to educating Supervisor Croci on what has transpired in his absence ... We are certain his deputy supervisor will be equally as helpful."
Two board members, Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Steve Flotteron, declined comment beyond the statement. The others, John Cochrane and Anthony Senft, could not be reached.
Croci said he visited Roberto Clemente Park on Thursday and "was sad to see the state it was in." He ordered the fields and entrances mowed and said town trucks will continue spraying water on the contaminated fill to control dust. He also signed a continuation of the town's state of emergency issued on the park.
The district attorney's investigation centers on who dumped debris at the park, at a parcel on the Sampawams Creek, at a privately- owned vacant lot in Central Islip, and at a six-home Islandia development built for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Croci announced measures to increase accountability, including a review of the town board's actions during his deployment.
"I will report back to the residents as necessary to examine these decisions. If they do not comport with the high standards that our residents -- our bosses -- expect from their government, you will know about it," he said.
He also said the ethics code will be bolstered with stiffer penalties for political activity conducted by town employees during their workdays, and the town board will no longer be directly involved with sales of public property.
During his deployment, the board approved the change of zone application on an East Islip town parcel that the town negotiated to sell in 2012, part of an initiative headed by councilwoman Bergin Weichbrodt and unanimously approved by Croci and the board.
The board also unanimously voted in November to fire Croci's planning commissioner, Dave Genaway; moved forward on the massive Islip Pines and Heartland Town Square development projects; and the town-owned airport lost two of its four airlines.
Croci compared the town's status to recovering from superstorm Sandy -- offering opportunities to rebuild stronger and better. "From that terrible situation, we were able to come back and rebuild parks that are better than ever. We will do the same in Roberto Clemente Park -- it will come back, and it will be better than ever," he said.
"I think we built up some really good momentum in the town before I deployed, and we made some pretty big strides together as a community. Be assured that we will very quickly get back into producing results for the residents in this town."