North Hempstead building commissioner suspended without pay in June

North Hempstead building commissioner suspended without pay in June

North Hempstead Building Commissioner John Niewender was suspended without pay for the month of June for workplace retaliation, Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said. 

The building department is currently undergoing an audit that DeSena requested last year by Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Philips.

“This suspension shows that my administration has a zero-tolerance policy for workplace retaliation, and will hold our management to a higher standard than in prior administrations,” DeSena said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “While I can’t comment further on the specifics, since I took office, I have expressed deep concern regarding the operations of the Building Department under the prior administrations, and this situation does nothing to allay my concerns about the department’s ability to manage day to day operations in a professional and efficient manner.”

Gordon Tepper, spokesperson for the town, told Blank Slate Media the town does not comment on personnel matters. 

DeSena sent a letter to Niewender on May 19 alerting him of his upcoming suspension. Earlier this year DeSena said she had to intervene on behalf of the comptroller’s office to have the building department turn over certain documents.

An independent investigation was conducted by the law firm Lamb & Barnosky LLP, which the town uses as outside counsel to investigate equal employment opportunity complaints, and was obtained by Newsday named inspector Paul Vetere as who filed the complaint. 

The report said Niewender and assistant to the commissioner Joseph Geraci reprimanded Vetere during an Aug. 8 meeting for “bashing” them to other employees, Newsday said.

The Nassau County Comptroller’s office told town officials on Aug. 8 they would be beginning the audit that DeSena previously requested last July.

Niewender has been in his current role since 2014 and worked in various capacities in the same department since 2004. 

In 2007, five building department officials were indicted after a 16-month investigation by then Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice for receiving favors and payments in exchange for granting permits without inspections.

All five were later convicted, including former Commissioner David Wasserman, who was sentenced to one year in jail in 2008 after pleading guilty to grand larceny and falsifying business records.

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