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Huntington Caught Wiretapping Officials, Reporters, Employees

By Maureen Daly


Next time you are in the parking lots, your car or the hallways of Huntington Town Hall be careful - the Town has installed powerful - and illegal - microphones to eavesdrop on you.


An attempted "political hit" has boomeranged into the exposure of a widespread illegal wiretapping and surveillance program run by officials in the Town of Huntington.  Wiretapping is a criminal felony under both state and federal law.


The wiretap victims include elected officials, political rivals to Supervisor Ed Smyth, news reporters, town employees and members of the public.  Even a reporter for this newspaper was allegedly wiretapped this past Monday, in the parking lot at Town Hall, according to town employees.


"Everything is recorded at the Town," stated Smyth about wiretaps, according to a town official, echoing an earlier comment that he made to the Leader that "cameras are everywhere."


On the afternoon of Friday, May 10th, there was a minor "fender bender" between two trucks in the Elwood parking lot of the Huntington Town Highway Department, off Jericho Turnpike.


Both Highway Superintendent Andre Sorrentino and Deputy Superintendent George Schwertl were in their offices on the grounds, and went out to inspect the truck.  The driver had already "clocked-out" - it was Friday afternoon - and the two discussed whether they should report the minor property damage to the Suffolk Police, or just deal with it as an internal matter.


Unbeknownst to Sorrentino and Schwertl, their private conversation was being recorded through hidden microphones, which routed back to Huntington Town Hall.


The following Monday morning, an "emergency meeting" was called by the Supervisor's office, and held in Town Attorney Sue Coleman's office.


Sorrentino - and the employees present during the fender bender - were confronted by a video and audio recording of their discussions in the parking lot. There were allegations of a "cover-up" and officials trying to "protect" the driver.


The eagerness to allege a "cover-up" was because of the widespread rumor in Town Hall that Schwertl might challenge Smyth for Supervisor in next year's elections. Smyth and his staff see Schwertl as a "political enemy" and are inclined to attack him or force him out.  


Councilman Sal Ferro was present for one of the meetings.


The allegations of "cover-up" fell apart when Schwertl and Sorrentino revealed that they DID call the police, with Schwertl having called Inspector Kevin Williams of the 2nd Precinct, and a police car having come to the Elwood Yard after 5:30PM to take a report..


But more important was the revelation that the Supervisor's office was recording private conversations using mechanical means - hidden and sound amplification microphones.


The highway employees are "very upset" about the wiretapping, according to co-workers, and have complained to their union.


"I knew nothing about voice recording cameras," stated Sorrentino. "And I think it is an invasion of privacy."


Worse than an "invasion of privacy" is that illegal wiretapping is a state and federal criminal felony.


"Under NY Penal Law sections 250.00 (1) and 250.05 it is a felony to use any 'mechanical means' to eavesdrop on a private conversation," stated constitutional attorney Mark Demetropoulos. "That means no hidden microphones and no sound collection devices. No spying on other people's private conversations. The penalty is four (4) years in prison."


"People have a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in their private conversations. It is a felony to wiretap or mechanically eavesdrop on two people without their consent." added Demetropoulos.


According to members of the Town's Information Technology (IT) Department, the new "high technology" cameras and microphones were installed last year.


One Town IT employee bragging that they "could read a person's texts" on their cell phones from halfway across the parking lot.  Another employee bragged that they captured a North Shore Leader reporter discussing this story last Monday on the cellphone - while the reporter was seated in the driver's seat of his parked car.


The Leader contacted Town Communications Director Christine Geed who promised to get some answers for the Leader and the public.


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