Community Letter Slams Mayor, Divides Village Board

Letter accuses mayor of money laundering; Pontieri denies any improper actions.

A that went out to Patchogue Village residents on Saturday stated that Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri is no longer a part of the Patchogue First organization for several reasons that include accusations of money laundering.

The letter, signed by Deputy Mayor Stephen McGiff and village trustee Gerard Crean, accuses Pontieri of "self-enrichment and politicial cronyism" through the tripling of his personal salary, the sale of his personal vehicle through a relative and a push to hire a relative to do custodial work for the Village.

“Paul’s my friend and has done so much for the community," McGiff said, "but at this point his vision and my vision have taken a different path."

Patchogue First is an organization that the entire current village board ran under during the 2004 and 2008 mayoral elections. Those elections have been uncontested.

McGiff also told Patch that he had found evidence of a $150,000 loan given to from the Village through Pontieri, which he described as an illegal practice as it was not presented in front of the Village Board.

The letter was sent to registered voters in Patchogue Village and was paid for by the signees, according to a Patchogue First official.

Pontieri said he was upset by the letter.

“When people you trust and people that you have brought in who you thought were friends attack you in a stirless way, it's an attack on you personally,” Pontieri said. “They have taken these small issues and made them into huge issues.”

Pontieri defended himself against the letter's charges to Patch.

Regarding the loan to Artspace, Pontieri said it came about when Artspace was putting together its financial package to pay for the new development.

“When we got to closing, we had changed our building fees," Pontieri said. "In the meantime, we had raised them."

This left Artspace $150,000 short of the necessary costs to develop, and it could not change its application as it was already approved, Pontieri said.

“So what I did in consultation with the village attorney, bonding, and Artspace attorneys, we gave them a note for $150,000, with no loss of funding to the village because we didn’t waive, gift or reduce fees,” Pontieri said.

McGiff said that he only found out about the loan four weeks ago, and that it was done without board approval or knowledge. Pontieri said that if an error was made on whether or not board approval was necessary for the loan, it is being investigated and is not an unsolvable problem.

Regarding the reported salary increase, Pontieri said that the same vote also multiplied the salaries of the other village trustees.

“My salary went from $15,000 to $36,000, at the same time the trustees raised their own from $3,600 to $12,000,” Pontieri said. “The salary increases were discussed extensively and passed by a unanimous vote.”

The letter also mentions that Pontieri accepted a job with the Town of Brookhaven, which Pontieri says is a minimal part-time job. Pontieri works out of the Town’s Economic Development Department.

“My job with Brookhaven is hourly and I do eight hours a week now,” Pontieri said. In comparison, Pontieri said he puts in 40-50 hours a week at the Village.

Regarding the vehicle, Pontieri said that he had sold his green Ford Explorer to a relative, and at the same time the Village was looking into purchasing a vehicle for the superintendent of highways at a cost of $32,000. Instead, Pontieri suggested that the Village purchase the Explorer at a cost of $2,500. Pontieri said his relative did make $500 from the sale.

The hiring of a different relative as a custodian occurred after the Village’s previous cleaners left through attrition, Pontieri said. The mayor said that highway laborers are typically hired by the village to clean at $30-$40 an hour, but that instead they are able to pay his relative $19-$20 an hour instead.

Pontieri said that he is the lowest paid worker in the Village, and works 40 hours a week. He is paid a benefits package that equals one-third of his salary.

Crean said that he was against the hiring of Pontieri’s relative when it was proposed.

“There’s no need to create a new job with benefits and the cost of hiring over the life of his employment is going to be very substantial,” Crean said.

The letter sent out to residents this past weekend states that Pontieri "has been informed that he can no longer use the Patchogue First name as his own."

Pontieri told Patch that was a mute point, saying that he had already separated from the organization, which he said became a corporation shortly after the of the in Patchogue.

“There have been differences in terms of Patchogue First and I already sort of resigned myself that Patchogue First has gone from being a community based organization now made into a corporation,” Pontieri said.

Elisabeth McGuire, an officer of the organization, which has a Facebook page and website, said that it was formed as a grassroots organization and has recently become listed as a legal not-for-profit corporation. The name had previously only been trademarked.

“It's something that was more of a grassroots organization to really fight partisan politics at the Village level and put the Village residents’ interests first above political maneuvering, and we felt if we could eliminate the politics we could get more done,” McGuire said. “We had several core principals and one is against high density housing.”

McGuire said that Pontieri has since became one of high density housing’s biggest supporters.

Pontieri recently formed another organization called Patchogue 2012, which consists of himself and trustees Lori Devlin and Jack Krieger. All three are up for re-election next March. 

McGiff's seat on the village board as deputy mayor will also be up for re-election next year. In the meantime, the entire Village board will still need work together despite the dividing letter.

“I’m sure we’ll still operate on a professional level, but it was a difficult journey to get to this point,” McGiff said of Pontieri, adding that he had rejected Pontieri’s request as a ticket for re-election.

Crean said he was hopeful a working relationship would continue among board members and the mayor.

“I realize that certain people may be disappointed or frustrated at both Stephen and I," Crean said, "but we also received a lot of support."

Pontieri said he believed his character and reputation in town would trump the letter's charges.

“My friends, my family and the Village and the community hopefully have enough respect for me that garbage and trash like this will not affect what they believe about me,” he said. 

Patch has Freedom of Information requests pending on several of the mentioned documents.

Updated 8/2/11 at 9:13 p.m.

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Jennifer Ann Krieger August 03, 2011 at 09:48 PM
There is also a newly created Facebook page for Patchogue 2012 for those who follow info that way.
Joe August 03, 2011 at 11:37 PM
David, seems to me that the Village Justice, Deputy Mayor, and the Commissioner of Economic Development, have taken the liberty to decide the future of "Patchogue First" without the approval of it's loyal supporter's. Count me out.
Penny Smith August 04, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Being a resident of Patchogue for over 35 years, I have witnessed both the decline and the rebirth of the village. Since 2004, when Mayor Pontieri took office, I have been very pleased with the direction our town has taken under his guidance. Many people have noticed the positive changes. News 12 recently featured Patchogue as a place worth visiting in their LI Passport series. Unfortunately, what I sense happening is an opposing political platform being built on innuendos. If a race for the mayor’s seat is what the authors of “the letter” have in mind, that’s fine. However, they should run on their own merit and avoid the dirty politics.
Jennifer Ann Krieger August 04, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Funny how all the snarky comments and questions are never signed with a real name.
cynthia ramirez August 04, 2011 at 01:30 PM
I'm sorry this has to happen but it seems like good old fashion politics. Like Penny Smith, I too have lived in Patchogue since 1967. I have seen how this village was in 2004 and where it is now. Kudos to Paul and his staff. Why has the vision changed? Could it be someone wants his job? Financial books should be open, in my opinion. As far as the "loan" to the artspace sometimes someone has to make decisions in a pinch but it still should have been addressed. PS i am a tax payer and a registered voter and didn't get a letter. So thank you Patch for this info and forum.
Marilyn August 04, 2011 at 01:55 PM
'loyal patchogue girl' First I must ask, who are you 'loyal' to? Secondly, under law, as the treasurer, I must file financial disclosures to the Patchogue Village Clerk in a timely fashion...dictated by the state. My filings have always been filed on time and are available for anyone to see. The filings show every donation made and every check written by the organization. Had anyone from the original Patchogue First organization asked, I would certainly reviewed the finances with them. Had you, I would not...it would be unethical and possibly illegal for me to do so. By your "moniker" I think you knew all of this, but I am happy to inform those who did not.
Marilyn August 04, 2011 at 03:36 PM
In a very safe place and will remain there until the "organization" and the "corporation" issue is resolved.
matthew horton August 04, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Patchogue was a dump before Mayor Pontieri took office. Main street was a dilapidaded row of empty buildings. Everyones home values were in the dumpster due to all the illegal housing that was rampant throughout the village. Those of you that are critics of Mayor Pontieri should go stand at the corner of Main St and North Ocean Ave and look at the transformation that has happened. Ten years ago Patchogue was a dump that people made fun of. Today those same people are comming to the village to live and spend money and play and shop in our parks, restaurants, bars and stores. Instead of criticizing Mayor Pontieri I would like to extend a hardy and thankful handshake for a job well done.
Betsy August 04, 2011 at 03:45 PM
As a Patchogue citizen who reads Patchogue Patch , I love the comment portion of an article because it is a place for community members to discuss their thoughts about a particular piece. I have never written a comment before, but that this page has been turned to a place to air dirty laundry with a debate over the checkbook of Patchogue First seems absolutely ridiculous and a bit pathetic. Why is this the space you pick to argue with each other over finances? It diminishes my opinion of Patchogue First, which I assume is the group that loyalpatchoguegirl is connected to. Even if Marilyn is doing something wrong, picking this particular argument on this comment page is not the place: take it somewhere else since it obviously seems to be an important issue. Patchogue First needs to figure out better approached to winning over public support, because things like this and the letter as far as I can see and have heard from other residents attached to no group, do not seem to be working.
Al Lofaso August 04, 2011 at 04:06 PM
While I am not a Village resident, I am a Patchogue resident that fully supports the transformation that has and is happening to the village. We here on the Broohaven town side are hopefull this will also happen. So, Kodo's to the current mayor Paul. P, Keep up the good work, however it has to be done.
Marilyn August 04, 2011 at 04:09 PM
This part of this discussion is over. I was appointed as treasurer by Mr Fuoco or Mrs McGuire many years ago and until they decided make P-1 a corporation, it wasn't a problem. They created the problem and now it has to be dealt with accordingly. I will make no further comment regarding the finances.
Jennifer Ann Krieger August 04, 2011 at 04:54 PM
To loyalpatchogue girl, I was going to write to say that I was sorry if you were just a concerned citizen asking a question, who happens to be anonymous and not someone just trying to anonymously challenge Marilyn. But I see the conversation between the two of you above and think that I will save that apology for someone who deserves it. This online forum, as well as others such as LI Politics, have turned into a great place for people to voice their concern, challenge or falsely accuse people all the while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. This is just another example of that. Why is it that you won't identify yourself, even when directly asked? Go to a public board meeting and voice your concerns or speak to the individuals involved directly whether it be to call them on the phone or when you bump into them in the street. No one is trying to hide anything. If you want information, it is out there. Just identify yourself and ask for it rather than sitting at a desk hiding behind an alias and playing games. This is a community forum and is not the place for it.
Jennifer Ann Krieger August 04, 2011 at 07:02 PM
To be honest, organization within what was Patchogue First was always lacking. Marilyn has done it because no one else wanted to. The fact that she is the mayor's sister is just a coincidence. There was never a huge group of people involved and honestly not many of them have ever offered to do much other than delegate. She was co-treasurer along with Mrs. Liz Acunto until she stepped down and eventually moved out of state. No one has ever asked her for records or to see anything. All of a sudden the other parties involved decided to incorporate the group without anyone else's knowledge and asked for the checkbook. As they brought lawyers into the mix and it is unclear who is truly Patchogue First, Marilyn did not relinquish it upon their request. Instead it is just sitting there collecting dust. The funds are still in the account, no one has taken anything out. The rest of us are going to just stay positive, keep the best interests of the Village as our focus and move along as Patchogue 2012. As far as elected officers, it is too early in the game to even begin to determine who wants to be involved, as the letter we received Saturday was the first time that most of us core Patchogue First members had even heard these allegations from members of not only our group, but our elected Board members. We are still in a state of confusion, betrayal, hurt and anger to know that this is the way they went about their supposed differences. It is not the way we do things.
Lori B. Devlin August 04, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Doreen, You continue to insinuate that Marilyn is hiding something and I take offense to that. Your comment regarding " real reporting procedures" has already been answered and I quote from her earlier comment "... under law, as the treasurer, I must file financial disclosures to the Patchogue Village Clerk in a timely fashion...dictated by the state. My filings have always been filed on time and are available for anyone to see. The filings show every donation made and every check written by the organization."
Mary Michaels August 04, 2011 at 09:15 PM
I think you all have done a good job but I agree about all of the high density apartments. The Arts building isn’t too bad because it’s not so many units. I just wish someone had picked a nicer color for it. What about all of the other apartments? I remember when the Tiffany Apartment building went up years ago and it was gorgeous—the Trump Towers of Patchogue. Well look at it now. I think the same thing will happen if we put that giant apartment building on Main Street. 10 or 20 years down the road, I might not be here but my children and grandchildren might. It will be a disaster. I remember Paul Pontieri sent me a giant postcard with all the apartment buildings on it and promised they wouldn’t bring more. I hate to say it, but promises have been broken. At least these two gentleman remember what their promises were in the first place. I sure hope that the River project on West Avenue does not include more apartments.
Mary Michaels August 04, 2011 at 09:20 PM
I have to say a lot of you sound like political henchmen for the Mayor. I don’t think this is an objective forum so I will do my own research and make up my own mind.
Susan Greco August 05, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Mary......that's a wonderful idea. Why don't you do that.....
Lori B. Devlin August 05, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Both sides may have henchmen making comments in my opinion
madeline gallo August 07, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Daniel Esquire August 07, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Patchogue boy or not, if any of the allegations are true this man has broken the law. I believe Deputy Mayor McGiff is both a Patchogue boy and an attorney and also has done a lot for the Village. Has anyone filed a complaint with the Attorney General? That is where I would start. Corrupt politicians have been removed from office for doing a lot less than these allegations. I think Pontieri needs a good attorney. Doesn't the Village have one on retainer already?
Cynthia Lindner, MS August 07, 2011 at 04:35 AM
I am surprised to read that civil service jobs which are also union jobs are thought to have flex pay. I believe it would be against civil service law to change a wage for a particular job title, and not hire in a proper manner -- through a list and an announcement.
Scott August 07, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I've heard about problems concerning the Theater, how only employing locals has held back the potential. All of this other stuff is new to me. As otehrs said, I'll do my own research though and not listen to anyone who has something to gain from either side. Mayor Pontieri has done a good job and has always been respectful to me and my family. I have dealt with Gerry Crean personally as well and know he is very responsible for much of the village's turnaround. I wish something like this never would have happened but taking "Republican" and "Democrat" out of the equation alone doesn't remove the politics. A little fire may be a good thing for the revitalization of Patchogue to get to the next level.
Daniel Esquire August 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Whether or not the Mayor is happy go lucky is really not the issue here. There are several illegalities that the Mayor allegedly perpetrated in his position as a public official and that is the issue. I'm just very surprised that the Village Attorney would allow some of this to go on under his watch. Municipal law is not my area of expertise, but it is pretty obvious that the sale of the car and the Artspace loan were illegal transactions. The previous poster also has a good point about the Civil Service hiring. That I am not certain about.
Jack Krieger August 07, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Scott, I am the Village Board Liaison to the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Please send an e-mail to jkrieger@patchoguevillage.org and include your full name and telephone number. I would be happy to discuss this with you. Thanks, Jack Krieger Patchogue Village Trustee
natalie baker August 08, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Trustee Krieger, I am also interested in hearing what you have to say regarding the Patchogue Theater. I am curious why I would have to give you my phone number in addition to my email address. Isn't this an open forum to voice concerns and possibly get answers? Are you trying to see who might be one of the henchmen I am so tired of reading about? I will email you, but in no way am I sharing my unlisted phone number with you.
natalie baker August 08, 2011 at 01:16 AM
I don't know. Both sides seem to believe that some of these posts are plants as per older posts above.
Susan Greco August 08, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Natalie...it seems to me that Trustee Krieger was trying to be helpful, nothing more. Scott can choose to provide his information or not. In the mean time, if you have concerns, all residents of the village are free to attend Village Board meetings in order to voice their concerns. This forum is not the place to get information, especially given all those who post and hide their identities.
natalie baker August 08, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Susan, I am curious as to why you feel the need to answer for Trustee Krieger.
natalie baker August 09, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Speaking of the theater, it would be great if a thread could be started about whether we think the Theatre is a profitable venture for the Village and what can be done to improve it! It would probably get lots of comments and suggestions.
Mark Wilson August 25, 2011 at 01:41 AM
I hope someone from the Central Islip, US Attorney General's Office got a copy ! I'm sure someone is watching this as it unfolds, and rubbing their hands together with GLEE !


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