Politics

Hempstead staffers alleged Bruce Blakeman used them as personal chauffeurs

The Republican Nassau County executive candidate was also accused in 2017 of retaliating against an aide.

Bruce Blakeman (far right), a Republican Nassau County executive candidate.

Bruce Blakeman (far right), a Republican Nassau County executive candidate. Michael Tamborrino/Nassau County Executive's Office

Two former staffers accused Bruce Blakeman, a Republican Nassau County executive candidate, of using them as his personal chauffeurs, according to a 2017 confidential memo. The Hempstead government staffers said they drove him to personal appointments, sometimes past midnight and on weekends. And when an aide turned down an assignment, Blakeman retaliated by making him do janitorial work at a park, according to the memo.

Blakeman is now challenging Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in November’s general election. He’s also a council member for Hempstead, a town of nearly 800,000 people on Long Island.

He was still a council member in 2017 when the town’s chief investigator, Garrett Gorton, spoke to two of Blakeman’s former staffers regarding their allegations that Blakeman was “abusing his power regarding work assignments,” according to a May 3, 2017, memo written by Gorton and obtained by City & State. It was addressed to Stephen D’Esposito, who was then the chief of staff to Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino. The document is marked confidential and carries the disclaimer that it was only created for the purposes of obtaining legal advice. Gorton wrote that he was following up on allegations made against Blakeman. He concluded that “after interviewing (the staffers), it has been established that Mr. Blakeman has, on several, undated occasions, used the above employees in a manner not consistent with his duties. Both witnesses brought up several occasions where they were left with no other choice but to chauffeur Mr. Blakeman while off duty and with no compensation.”

Asked for a response, Blakeman’s campaign emailed a statement: “The subject letter was an unauthorized, baseless and unfounded document which was fully investigated and found to be without merit or credibility.”

Asked to elaborate further, Juda Engelmayer, a strategist working for the campaign, emailed: “This was part of some bad blood and not something that had merit. There was an internal investigation and it came up empty. That is why it never went beyond this letter.”

The campaign’s claims couldn’t be verified by town officials. Reached by phone, Gorton referred City & State to the Office of the Town Attorney for comment. The office did not respond to requests for comment on the memo. These allegations against Blakeman have seemingly never been reported. And it is not clear if the allegations were ever discussed publicly or whether Blakeman was ever reprimanded. The memo was not discussed at any of the town board meetings in the months following its writing, according to the minutes posted online.

Gorton wrote in the memo that Andrew Mastromarino, who was working as Blakeman’s executive assistant at the time, “would often have him drive to the confines of New York City, and other locations where Mr. Blakeman would conduct personal business or pleasure,” while Mastromarino would wait in Blakeman’s personal vehicle. The pattern continued the whole time that Mastromarino worked for Blakeman, Gorton wrote, “and it caused Mr. Mastromarino great stress as he was a new father and was unable to refuse his assignments out of fear of retribution from Mr. Blakeman.” Mastromarino, who still works for the town, did not respond to a request for comment.

Thomas McGrath, then a legislative assistant, also told Gorton that he would drive Blakeman to personal meetings while on the clock and “on evenings and weekends without compensation.” McGrath said that when he once told Blakeman he was out of town and couldn’t drive him on a Sunday, Blakeman ordered him to report to a town park two days later where he “punched in to perform janitorial duties.” When McGrath’s mother complained, Gorton wrote that Blakeman said her son was “unappreciative” and mentioned that he had given jobs to several members of the McGrath family.

Curran’s campaign declined to comment, but directed City & State to Nassau County Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs. “Bruce Blakeman’s total abuse of power and betrayal of taxpayers tells Nassau voters all they need to know about who he is as a candidate and a person,” Jacobs wrote in a statement. “These actions should disqualify him from holding the office of County Executive or any office in New York state.”

Blakeman trails Curran in fundraising ahead of the Nov. 2 election. He has previously run unsuccessfully for New York City mayor in 2009, U.S. Senate in 2010 and the 4th Congressional District in 2014.

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