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Suffolk DA takes employee records from Islip Town Hall, including Michael Torres'

By: 
By SARAH ARMAGHAN AND SARAH CRICHTON
Publication: 
NEWSDAY
Oct
5
2014

Investigators with the Suffolk County district attorney's office last week obtained employee records from Islip Town's personnel department, including the assessment review board application of town Conservative Party leader Michael Torres.

Those records show Torres signed the application form last year, checking the "no" box when asked if he had ever been convicted of "any crime" -- felony or misdemeanor. At the time, Newsday has reported, Torres had two misdemeanor convictions on his record, one for promoting gambling and another for driving without a valid license.

The town employment form states that Torres' application was "true and complete" and that "any false statement is cause for immediate dismissal."

Sources confirmed investigators were in Islip Town Hall last Monday seeking the personnel records. The sources said investigators visited again Thursday to collect more personnel records -- this time involving the town parks department staff.

Dumping probe

Last month, District Attorney Thomas Spota convened a special grand jury to investigate illegal dumping in Islip after his office's criminal probe, launched in April, of an estimated 50,000 tons of toxin-laced debris deposited at Islip Town's Roberto Clemente Park. That probe widened to three other sites: a six-home development for veterans in Islandia, an environmentally sensitive wetland on the Islip-Babylon border and a privately owned vacant lot on the corner of a main thoroughfare in Central Islip.

Neither Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, who is running for the State Senate, nor Town Attorney Rob Cicale would comment on what investigators took from Town Hall. Both declined to speak about Torres' signed application for the assessment review board. Torres did not return calls for comment.

In an emailed statement, town spokeswoman Patricia Kaloski said, "The town is in the process of reviewing all details and relevant facts in this situation, and upon completion, will ensure that appropriate measures are taken."

The Newsday story revealing details of Torres' legal history, and his marking the "no" box on his town application, was published last Monday. The day before, sources said, Croci asked Torres to resign from the board.

On Thursday, Croci, who has been cross-endorsed in his bid for the State Senate by the Conservative Party, said he would not comment on whether he had sought the resignation of Torres, who remains on the board. He said he would stand by the emailed statement while the town continued its own investigation.

Town board members Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, Steven Flotteron and lone Conservative Party Councilman Anthony Senft did not return requests for comment. Republican Town Councilman John Cochrane, reached by phone last week, said he would await the town's internal investigation before making a decision on Torres' future.

Bergin Weichbrodt, Flotteron and Islip Republican Party chairman Frank Tantone attended a fundraiser last Monday at the Land's End restaurant in Sayville that was hosted by Torres to raise money for the town's Conservative Party coffers.

One meeting left

The town board, which voted 5-0 to appoint Torres to the position on Jan. 2, 2013, has one remaining meeting between now and Election Day, Nov. 4, in which to formally act on or discuss Torres' appointment. In November 2011, the Conservatives, headed by Torres and his political mentor, Suffolk County party chairman Edward Walsh, delivered Croci a vital 12 percent of the vote that saw Croci narrowly defeat the Democratic incumbent, Phil Nolan.

The position Torres has on the tax assessment review board carries a term until Sept. 30, 2017, with an annual salary of $7,875. Torres also has a post at the Suffolk Board of Elections that pays him $105,800 a year. Newsday has reported that Walsh was instrumental in Torres getting that job.

Last week, Suffolk's GOP boss, John Jay LaValle, said he was awaiting the return from vacation of Wayne Rogers, the GOP commissioner at the board, to decide what, if anything, to do about Torres' Board of Elections job.

Several legal experts and practicing criminal attorneys interviewed last week -- including Cheryl Bader, a former federal prosecutor now teaching a criminal defense clinic at Fordham Law School -- said Torres' marking "no" on the town application form could constitute a criminal charge under New York State Penal Law for offering a false instrument for filing, an E-class felony that carries a maximum penalty of 1 1/2 to 4 years in state prison.

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