Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly has recently begun an investigation into accusations of misconduct involving Long Beach City Councilmember Roy Lester and City Council Vice President Elizabeth Treston.
Following a city council meeting in May regarding a settlement with ex-city employee and former city firefighter Jay Gusler over disputed owed funds, the council approved a $144,000 payout to Gusler, to be dispersed annually until 2032.
Documents showed that while Gusler initially demanded $258,375, city attorneys negotiated to “settle all claims, demands, and pending litigation,” bringing the amount to $144,000.
Gusler filed a lawsuit against the city due to an alleged violation of their 2016 agreement, following injuries he sustained at work. This legal action is separate from Gusler’s 2016 misdemeanor convictions for identity theft and forgery.
City Council President John Bendo recused himself from the vote, citing a personal friendship with Gusler.
“The person that this item relates to is a friend of mine and someone I socialize with,” he said during discussions at the meeting. “Because of that, I must recuse myself on this item.”
The investigation highlights potential misconduct among the two council members — Lester and Treston — linked to their relationships with Gusler.
Despite his law firm’s prior representation of Gusler, Lester did not recuse himself from the vote.
“For full disclosure, my firm has represented Jay Gusler in the past,” Lester stated at the meeting. “I have not represented him myself, and I do not see any conflict of interest.”
Treston’s home was renovated by volunteers, one of whom was Gusler. Like Lester, after discussing her connections with Gusler with the city’s corporate counsel, Treston was permitted to vote.
“The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office recently initiated an investigation after receiving multiple complaints on this matter,” Deputy Communications Director at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Nicole Turso, said.
In response to concerns raised, City Spokesman John McNally assures that their voting adhered to legal regulations.
“The City Council acted in accordance with the advice of the Corporation Counsel. Approval of the settlement saved taxpayers more than $100,000 compared to what had previously been agreed to,” he said. “Council members are confident that the District Attorney will find they acted properly and in compliance with all laws.”
The council unanimously approved the decision, apart from Bendo. This approval allowed Acting City Manager Ron Walsh to formalize and execute the agreement on May 3.
The investigation regarding the two council members is still ongoing.