Members of Latino organizations and other community groups across Long Island protested the Town of Hempstead’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration last week in support of Mark Bonilla, the town clerk who recently said he does not plan to resign even though he faces criminal charges related to sexual harassment complaints by a town employee.
Bonilla, 50, of Bellmore, the town clerk since 2003, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, second-degree coercion and attempted petit larceny, which relate to alleged actions he took after being accused of sexual harassment by the town employee, according to District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office. Supervisor Kate Murray asked Bonilla to resign at a news conference the day after his arrest on Sept. 21.
Although Bonilla and his attorney, Adrian DiLuzio, could not be reached for comment as of press time, the clerk said on his Facebook page that he does not intend to step down. He said that by asking for his resignation, the supervisor is insinuating that he is not entitled to due process of law and presumption of innocence.
“Kate Murray needs to be reminded that we live in America and that everyone deserves these rights,” he wrote on his page.
Protesters who had gathered outside Hempstead Town Hall Oct. 10 agreed that the clerk has been treated unfairly, saying that Murray acted insensitively by calling for Bonilla’s resignation when she did.
Max Rodriguez, president of Long Island’s Cuban Civic Club and a board member of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, worked for Bonilla for nine years. Rodriguez said the clerk told him he hadn’t been invited to the town’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration last week, leading Rodriguez to organize the protest before the event.
“How can you be nice to one Hispanic and against another?” he said. “We have to show Supervisor Murray that she treated him very unfairly. He’s an official that was elected by the people, and he deserves a fair shake.”