Town Clerk Bonilla Arrested Over Sexual Harassment and Possible Blackmail Charges

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Town Clerk Bonilla Arrested Over Sexual Harassment and Possible Blackmail Charges

By Danielle Puma

Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla was arrested last Friday after he allegedly tried to cover up a sexual-harassment suit by blackmailing his accuser with obscene photos of her. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that Bonilla had considered paying his accuser $10,000 to silence her after the claim had been filed.

“It is unacceptable for an elected official to create such a hostile work environment,” said Rice.

Bonilla, 50, is accused of approaching Alex Desidoro, a male employee of the Town of Hempstead Clerk’s Office and previous boyfriend of the female employee, and trying to get compromising photos of the female employee. According to the criminal complaint, Desidoro was told that he would be promoted to full-time employment if he complied, but would be transferred out of the clerk’s office if he did not.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and others have urged Bonilla to resign after learning of the allegations set forth against him. This includes two other women that have come forth and accused him of sexual harassment,

“The alleged conduct of the Town Clerk is disgusting and offensive. Officials have a responsibility to uphold the public’s trust. These credible allegations are a violation of that trust and I am calling upon him to immediately resign his position, “ said Murray.

Democrat Steven Anchin ran against Bonilla in the 2011 elections and got nearly 40 percent of the votes. He said if he does resign from his position, he would be honored to be appointed as Town Clerk.

“I’m saddened by the situation and I do believe that everyone in America is innocent until proven guilty and [Bonilla] has a right to a trial. My own feeling is that I think the Town has done the right thing by bringing the allegations to the attention of the District Attorney. I trust this will proceed along the way it should –  this is the way the system works. I think the public is entitled to have their elected officials do the best job possible in an ethical way. Maybe in a gesture of governmental transparency, the Town Board and supervisor will decide to go with the election’s runner up when they are looking, if the situation does arise, to appoint a replacement,” said Anchin.

Democratic Legislator David Denenberg said he has known Bonilla for a number of years and will not be quick to make a judgment in regard to the allegations.

“Not being a town official, I have no knowledge of these complaints aside from what I’ve read. Mark and I live in the same area and often attend the same functions so I’ve gotten to know him and his family. I certainly feel for his family and what has to be a very trying time for them. The American justice system presumes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The complainants and Mr. Bonilla are entitled to their day in court and I’ll wait until then to make any conclusions, “ said Denenberg.

Hewlett resident Lauren Britto said the allegations set forth against Bonilla should be taken seriously, but there is no reason he should be forced to resign this abruptly.

“He has been serving the Town of Hempstead for nearly 10 years and there is a reason for that. We all have to wait and see what happens before we judge so quickly. It seems like everyone is jumping on him and saying, we do not know for sure if these allegations are true or not, but we want to get rid of you so resign. Isn’t it innocent until proven guilty?” said Britto.

Bonilla has been serving the Town for the past nine years and said he has no intention of resigning. He has pled not guilty to charges of official misconduct, attempted coercion and petty larceny.

He is due in court on October 26.

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