Families of special-needs students who attend the Town of Hempstead’s Camp Anchor are suing Town Supervisor Anthony Santino and a town attorney, alleging that their personal information was illegally obtained to target them with political mailings that urged them to re-elect Santino.
The families are being represented by Bellmore attorney Jeff Gold, who is running for county legislator in District 19.
The suit claims that William Muller “used confidential Town records to further the candidacy of Santino,” when he accessed the identities of Camp Anchor attendees and sent letters to their families, and that Deputy Town Clerk Diana Bianculli-Muller, the town attorney’s wife, facilitated the move.
According to the suit, nearly 1,200 Camp Anchor attendees’ records were illegally accessed in order to target the mailer, which encouraged the families to vote for Santino.
“We are asking you to please join us in voting for the re-election of Anthony Santino for Town Supervisor because we personally know how he feels about the Anchor program and the important service it provides to our township’s special needs community,” the letter read.
In the suit, Gold wrote that Muller’s use of the families’ personal information was an invasion of privacy, and an “illegal, immoral” violation of HIPAA and state public health law.
The suit seeks unspecified punitive damages and an injunction keeping their names and identifying information from being used for political purposes “or any other improper use.”
“Families with developmental disabilities and special needs are the most vulnerable constituents in our community,” Gold said on Sunday in a Facebook post. “Their privacy deserves the utmost respect . . . Special needs should never be politicized. The Camp Anchor families deserve dignity. I am humbled to stand with the families of Camp Anchor and demand answers into this despicable human rights violation.”
Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who has publicly feuded for months with Santino over his management style and the need for ethics reform in town government, announced on Sunday that she would be filing a Freedom of Information Law request about how the information was obtained by Muller.
“This information was apparently used by Muller for the purposes of political solicitation on behalf of the supervisor,” King Sweeney said. “This is unacceptable and totally unethical. We must get to the bottom of how this information was released, and who authorized it.”
Mike Deery, a spokesman for the Town of Hempstead, said on Monday that the information accessed by Muller was publicly available.
“Mr. Muller acquired such a list, in his capacity as a private individual, in response to a properly executed FOIL request,” Deery said.