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Law firm finds harassment claim against Tenke ‘unfounded’

Glen Cove mayor says he’s cleared of harassment

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Allegations of gender discrimination and harassment lodged last fall against Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke and two other city officials were “unfounded and/or unactionable.”

That’s according to the recent findings of the Farmingdale-based law firm Guercio & Guercio LLP, which the City Council hired to investigate the accusations.

The council voted July 28 to accept the firm’s report, which found legal action could not be taken against Tenke or the other officials, Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos and City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman. The firm’s confidential report was not discussed at the July session.

City Controller Sandra Clarson, whom Tenke fired at one point, only to rehire her days later, and Parks and Recreation Director Darcy Belyea made the accusations amid a heated mayoral race last fall, in which Tenke, a Democrat, faced a stiff challenge by former Mayor Reggie Spinello, a Republican. Spinello had originally hired Clarson.e

“Obviously, I’m elated by the decision and I feel vindicated,” Tenke said.

According to the mayor, the claim was not initially filed in the city’s Human Resources Department, but rather “in the news,” noting, “It was actually first brought to the attention of News 12.”

Shortly after the first news reports, the claim was, in fact, filed in Human Resources.

News 12’s reporting was based on a news release written by Zefy Christopoulos, a former Republican candidate for the Nassau County Legislature, in which Clarson and Belyea alleged that they had been bullied and used as scapegoats by Tenke, Basdavanos and Silverman. The mayor, they said, had created a poor working environment for women.

The Herald Gazette filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the city last fall for any claims of harassment against Tenke  filed in the previous three years. The city clerk at the time, Tina Pemberton, said that a search of city records yielded no such claims.

But Belyea said her claims reflected her experience and that of Clarson, who alleged she was bullied by Tenke. The Herald Gazette was unable to reach Clarson for comment.

Because the allegations were first aired in the media rather than filed with the city, Tenke said he believed at the time that it was a political ploy. “It was designed in order to make me look bad right before the election,” said Tenke, who was re-elected in November. “I’m glad that the residents and the public saw through what this was an attempt of.”

Silverman, who was also up for re-election, said she was satisfied with the conclusion. “It’s important to take every complaint seriously,” she said. “I’m glad a thorough investigation was done, which fully cleared me of all allegations.”

But Belyea said her complaint was not related to the election. She had worked with four other mayors, she said, three of whom were Democrats. She added that simply because the law firm had concluded that no legal action could be taken in the case did not mean the allegations were false.

“I was not surprised by the findings of the attorneys that were hired by the city to conduct this investigation,” she said.

Clarson told Newsday that her claim with the city remains open.

Tenke said the council took the accusations seriously. “We took the proper steps,” he said. “We had the investigation done, and we had outside counsel come in, and they did extensive investigation work, with interviews of employees and people, and that’s how they determined that this was an unfounded claim.”

Basdavanos said she was pleased by the finding, which she said cleared her of any wrongdoing. “It was upsetting to be accused of something like this,” she said. “I’m happy all the facts were looked at and the truth came out.”

Asked if any changes had been made at City Hall since last fall, Basdavanos replied, “No.”

“There is no difference in how women are treated here than men,” she said. “We are all included in everything that goes on here in the city. I’ve always felt that the women’s opinions are valued as much as the men.”

Belyea acknowledged that since the claims were reported last fall, she and the mayor have worked together professionally.

“I’m glad that she feels that it has improved,” Tenke said. “Our job is really to make sure the residents of Glen Cove are served, and we need to work together to make sure that happens.”

Ronny Reyes and Laura Lane contributed to this story.