Mastic Beach Village Residents Want to Get to Bottom of Illegal Access to Private Information

ASV_3079sm• Story by Barbara LaMonica

A former Mastic Beach Village employee’s alleged illegal access of a computer software program emerged as a focal point of conversation during a meeting of the Pattersquash Creek Civic Association on Monday. Residents expressed concern and at times ire over the former employee who allegedly posed as the municipality’s police commissioner gaining homeland security level access to such sensitive information as social security and license numbers of 488 village residents. Only problem is, the village does not have a police commissioner position on its roles.
Stating that “this was a privacy breach at the highest level of searches,” Village Trustee Joseph Johnson, who is also an attorney, fielded questions from residents who are passionate about finding out the facts about the issue that is dividing a community. The meeting became verbally contentious at times with some placing blame on the current mayor, and others pointing fingers at a prior administration for not being forthcoming to residents with what they knew as soon as they learned about the security breach. Johnson said there were 488 searches by the former employee which were “deemed to be improper searches.” Acknowledging his own personal data had been breached, Pattersquash Creek Civic Association Vice-President Chris Ricciardi, who officiated over the meeting and attempting to keep residents who were passionate and divided, said: “I was also searched, and I’m livid about it, but let’s try to keep the meeting civil.” The level of security by which residents’ most sensitive data was breached has prompted a tri-pronged investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney, Attorney General and Department of Justice.
Former Mastic Beach Village Mayor Bill Biondi acknowledged he fired the employee during his tenure as mayor. The employee was approved by the village board to assisting with building and code enforcement to locate absentee landlords and identify illegally rented houses, during his tenure as mayor. “Yes, this person was fired when I was mayor,” Biondi said. “He had permission to log in to the computer, but he went a bit further to investigate people he shouldn’t have,” Biondi said during an interview before the Pattersquash Creek Civic Association Meeting. “When I left as mayor, we received a report from the (computer) company, LEXUS-NEXUS which illustrated who he was logging in to, and I fired him for this use of a government program.”
Susan Steinman called for unity in the community as residents wait for the answers to be revealed. Saying knowledge of the breach should have been disclosed to those whose information had been illegally accessed, Steinman added: “We shouldn’t be playing the blame game or rushing to judgment – all we’re asking is to hold everyone accountable.” A proponent for the continuation of Mastic Beach Village to remain incorporated, Steinman urged listeners to vote on the referendum on November 16. (see related story).
But Biondi, who was criticized by some at the meeting, fired back: “I’m tired of people pointing fingers at me. The attorneys said they’d handle everything and how and when information would get to the public. We need to stick together until the facts come out,” Biondi continued. “And when they do, you guys are all going to be surprised.”
Former Village Deputy Mayor Nick Busa said the LEXUS-NEXUS and T.L.O. computer programs were designed for use by the village to locate absentee landlords and squatters and the former employee’s alleged misuse of the programs cost him his $82,000 a year job.
Reached for comment, Mastic Beach Village Mayor Maura Spery, who was not at the meeting, expressed disdain during a telephone interview: “It’s outrageous!” Spery exclaimed. “This has scratched the surface of illegal actions – this is an illegal act and this absolute shredding of people’s constitutional rights is despicable, and I look for the proper authorities and law enforcement to do what is right for Mastic Beach residents and to hold those who are responsible accountable to the highest laws.”

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