Regarding the Mayor’s [Paul Pontieri] taking of gas, there can be no dispute whatsoever that it is illegal and unauthorized.
In 1977, the New York State Comptroller’s office rendered an official decision directly on point which clearly states that under no circumstances may a Mayor take gasoline from a village gas pump when operating a private car. See NYS Comptroller’s Decision 77-208. That has been the law for at least 35 years.
Mayor Pontieri continues with his tradition of making excuses, misrepresentations, and justifications for his illegal conduct. In his letter, the Mayor asserts that McGiff assigned gas keys to village employees. The truth is that the Mayor assigned keys to these individuals. He also states that McGiff approved a member of the building department to drive his son to school in Riverhead.
Let us be clear; if we were to receive any information that any employees had engaged in illegal activities, we would immediately take appropriate action. For the Mayor to suggest that we would give approval for a village employee to commit a crime is absurd and an outright fabrication. When questioned about this at the board meeting of January 23, Mr. Pontieri refused to discuss the matter.
There can be no doubt that Mr. Pontieri is purposely and continuously making false statements in order to mislead Village residents. In a recent correspondence our Mayor attempts to discredit our findings as “conveniently timed” to further our “distorted political agenda.” By our mayor’s admission his access key and pin were issued by the Village treasurer. Our internal auditors recognized and alerted the Board of Trustees of a severe flaw in the fueling system. The mayor’s personal vehicle was never authorized by the board to have access to Village fuel.
Pontieri claims that his taking of gas was “an acceptable practice for decades.” That would not be a defense even if it were true -- it isn’t. Mayor’s Leavandosky, Keegan, and Ihne all denied taking gas from the Village pump to the Advance. Pontieri also tries to justify his conduct by claiming other Mayors got to drive Village owned vehicles. The Advance reported that Mayors Ihne and Leavandosky did not drive a Village vehicle. It also reported that while the Village paid for Mayor Keegan’s leased vehicle for 1 year, it should be noted that those lease payments were presented to and approved by the Village Board.
The Mayor’s “apology” rings hollow! In a letter published in the Advance our mayor admits “I do believe there should be more accountability, and if there is any error that I made it was that I should have put in for reimbursement instead of using the Village pumps.” Sadly, in addition to fueling his vehicle at the village pump ,we have found he has abused a credit card he has issued himself. During a ten week period from 4/15/10-7/05/10 while our tanks were being replaced he visited gas stations in the area 19 times! For our Mayor to excuse his behavior, leading us to believe that every gallon burned and every mile driven was for Village business, is an affront to the tax payers of this Village.
According to the law, it’s illegal for the Mayor to take any gasoline – even one gallon -- from the Village pump. Mayor Pontieri has taken close to 5,000 gallons worth more than $17,000, and he has frequently gasses up 2 or more times per week. In addition to this, he was charging gas on a Village credit card. He has done all of this without Village Board knowledge or approval, and in violation of clearly defined laws.
One example taken from the voluminous Village gas records, records we spent countless hours reviewing, illustrates the depth and audacity of Mr. Pontieri’s abuse. From April 21, 2008, through April 29, 2008, Paul Pontieri accessed the gas pump 5 times in 8 days, taking 66 gallons of gasoline. He could have driven more than 1,000 miles on that amount of gasoline. On other occasions, during summer months, he has taken an amount of gasoline consistent with filling up a portable gas can. It is obvious from these records that he has been gassing up more than just his own vehicle.[i]
The NYS Penal law makes it a crime to steal property. NYS Penal Law §155.25. A person steals property when he wrongfully takes or obtains property from an owner (in this case the owner of the gasoline is the Village of Patchogue – the taxpayers). NYS Penal Law §155.05. Stealing becomes grand larceny, a felony, when the amount stolen exceeds $1,000.00. Penal Law 155.30.
During the past eight years we have travelled to and from countless meetings, conferences and seminars related to Village business. As trustees representing the residents of this Village over the past eight years, we have never, not once accessed the Village pumps.
In our official capacity we have requested authorities to investigate Mr. Pontieri’s taking of gasoline. We are renewing and maintaining our strong belief that Mr. Pontieri should resign his office immediately.
Stephen J. McGiff Gerard J. Crean
[i] All of these figures can be confirmed by viewing the records which have been uploaded by Patchogue Patch, in a link provided in a story about the Mayor’s gassing at the Village pump. You can also request these records at Village Hall. The Mayor’s PIN number is 4762. There are other PIN numbers for village employees gas use listed in the records. We did not include those in our calculations. Mayor Pontieri has acknowledged that he created the gas system that is currently in place, and he has stated that only he has used his PIN number.