The Truth Hurts

The truth about Paul Pontieri's illegal gas use.

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.

Respectfully Submitted
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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Barcelo January 25, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Thank you I have called the NYS Controller investigators myself after researching this two days ago. More residents should do so rather then argue with his followers. Stealing is stealing and JUSTICE will be served.
george January 26, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Witch hunt....convenient.....agenda......why is the denial by other mayors acceptable and not worthy of investigation......because its of no benefit to you to discredit them...I drive to Manhattan every day and use a significant amount of gas each way....I refuse to believe that Mr pontieri used the gas for anything other than village use....prove otherwise.....this man has the village best interests at heart.....he is always involved when something is happening ....do you think he wanted to be standing on Smith St in the height of hurricane Irene....no...but he was trying to convince those in peril to evacuate....a more selfless man you would be hard pressed to find
BriGuy January 26, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Is this how you guys plan to get into office? Will it be easier to unseat a popular incumbent if you continue working this angle? To be honest, I'm tired of hearing it. Here's what really bothers me: every time I drive past the old Sweezy building, I'm not thinking about gas or ethics or any of letters you've sent. No, I think about how sick I am of seeing this blight on the Four Corners. What I would love to hear from you and your slate are ideas for real progress in the village. I want to hear what you plan to do with the Four Corners. I want you to tell us how you'll get the property back from Tritec or get them to comply with alternative plans. I want you to show us plans proposals and name some developers who will be willing to risk working with the village now. I want a timeline for when this blighted eyesore of a corner will FINALLY be redeveloped and when we as a village can see real change on Main Street. Maybe Pontieri's time is up as mayor, but you and your slate haven't proven to anyone how you will do anything better. So until I know that your slate is a sure thing and that you have a real plan for the Four Corners and can promise that it will be redeveloped before the end of your term, I'll hold off on supporting you. Election day is coming up sooner than you think and we still haven't heard any real plans or novel ideas from Residents First. Impress us if you want our votes. Enough with the smear...bring on the ideas!
Dennis Barone January 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Witch hunt? The Mayor has violated the public trust. Don’t forget that Trustees McGiff and Crean were a big part of all the projects the Mayor takes sole credit for, and they never once abused their privileges. How do you think they felt when they learned of his unauthorized and illegal activity? Why is it he will take all the credit for the work of his team and no responsibility for his own mistakes? The trustees were making $12,000 per year and the Mayor was making $36,000 per year. In the four years he was stealing gas, the Mayor earned about $144,000. He couldn’t afford gas for his family? Give me a break. They tried to counsel Pontieri for over a year to stop making unilateral decisions and back room deals. He refused to listen and thought he was accountable only to himself. Doing his job in a Tropical Storm doesn’t begin to make up for his abuse of power as Mayor. We deserve better.
Stinkerbelle January 26, 2012 at 11:15 PM
NYS Comptroller's Opinion 77-208 cites NY Village Law 5-524(7) and concludes: "The mayor and trustees of a village may be compensated for official use of their private cars only by one of two methods; (1) by reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses; or (2) by a reasonable mileage allowance." This opinion was dated March 9, 1977. Mr. McGriff, when were you made aware of the comptroller's opinion?
BriGuy January 27, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Mr. McGiff, what are your plans for the Four Corners? We cannot have it blighted any longer. Please leave the Pontieri-bashing to the trolls on the message boards. What we need from our leaders are real ideas that will benefit the village for generations to come. I'm keeping an open mind about both slates. Patchogue 2012 makes a very compelling case on their website. Residents First brings up a good point about developers being too friendly with the current administration. Here's the rub though: I know the plan the mayor voted for. I know his vision for the Four Corners and I know how it was to be implemented because of the developer's presentations to the village. But I have NO IDEA what you, Mr. Crean, and Ms. McGuire have in mind for the Four Corners. I have no idea how you would implement those plans. To be short, I don't know where you stand on how to move FORWARD. If Residents First wants the privilege of leading this village, they must be more than the Party of No. They need to be upfront and honest with us about what kind of plan they would vote for and they have to show us that that plan can become a reality and soon. The election is coming up faster than you think. We residents will make the PROGRESS of Patchogue a focal point in this election.
steven January 27, 2012 at 03:40 AM
This all reminds me of the famous fairy tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes". But let's rewrite it and call it, "The Mayor's New Clothes". Everyone is afraid to say something even though they know it's wrong. Thank you Trustees McGiff and Crean for being the "child" and pointing out that what you see is wrong. .
Chris January 27, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I believe this issue with the gas is a smoke screen; if we are reviewing the conduct of the individuals we are given the opportunity to vote for then we should find out more about you, Mr. McGiff. Can you tell us more about Copper Beach? Did you approve this project? Did you have any involvement with the mortgage closings at Copper Beach? How many of those closings did you have a hand in? How much did you earn there? Did you vote to approve the River Walk Project, where there will be new mortgages? Did you not approve the Four Corners project because it is all rentals? Does your personal gain influence your voting?
greatsouthbay January 29, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I went to the comptrollers website. I was concerned when I saw that the date of the opinion was 1977. I wanted to see if there was a more recent decision. What I can tell you is this and it is a quote from the website- "Legal Opinions - These opinions represent the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time they were rendered. The opinions may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinions" Wondering it these two trustees can provide me with something more recent than 1977?
greatsouthbay January 29, 2012 at 04:32 AM
I would like to know how Mr. McGiff came to be part owner in the building that was once the Four Sisters? Did he recuse himself when there was a vote to sell to the person that is now his partner in the building? I believe not.
Stinkerbelle January 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM
greatsouthbay: instead of using the comptroller's opinion, refer to NYS Village Law 5-524(7) and then go on to review NYS Village Law 4-412(12). The former is somewhat "murky" but the later is not. It clearly defines the responsibilities of the board members including procedures and timetables. Depending upon what actions were taken, and when they were taken, it is possible the entire board may be subject to removal. In my opinion the saddest part of this issue, and the surrounding campaign rhetoric, is that it seems to mirror what is happening on our national political front. It is a sorry state of affairs and each and everyone of our elected officials, and those running for office, should be ashamed of themselves.
florence casey January 29, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Look at the numbers. For me it's not even about his not getting board approval for his own gas, which is bad enough. It's obvious he was gassing up other vehicles too and probably his lawn mower or snow blower. Look at the mileage. I don't care how many "meetings" this guy had, it's impossible for him to use that much gas. Does he not think we can add?
Daniel Esquire January 29, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Unlike Paul Pontieri, Trustee McGiff has never done anything illegal. You are reaching for straws. Now you are questioning a law in existence for 35 years? Obviously no one has challenged this law since 1977. Only Pontieri would want to abuse the gas and claim it is illegal. Only in Patchogue.
Stinkerbelle January 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Mr. Esquire, I believe you mis-spoke yourself. Correct me if I am wrong but I think you meant to write," Only Pontieri would want to abuse the gas and claim it is legal." That aside, nowhere did I challenge the comptroller's opinion. Indeed I think the opinion helped clarify NYS Village Law 5-524(7) that I consider to be "murky". Taking the comptroller's opinion one step further, even if the mayor had put one gallon of gasoline into his private car from the village pump with the full consent, blessing and approval of the board, he still would have been in violation of the law. End of story. Now what the board or any of its members did after gaining knowledge of the violation is another matter. Please read NYS Village Law 4-412(12). It clearly defines what a trustee must do, and when it must be done, in just this kind of situation. Mr. Esquire, I am neither your friend nor foe. It just seems to me that there are procedures in place for any trustee to follow. If they choose not to, they may be subject to removal. Only in Patchogue? I guess if you don't like it here you could always move.
Patchogue Snoop February 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM
JoJoCfe March 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Attorney McGiff, I guess the truth does hurt. Like I have said before, "people who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones".


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