More call on Oceanside commissioner to resign over hateful posts

John Asbury for Newsday

November 10, 2020

Originally published in Newsday on November 10, 2020.

More than a dozen Nassau County elected officials and community groups called for the resignation or removal of an Oceanside sanitation commissioner for making racist, anti-Semitic and hateful posts on Facebook.

Elected officials, including Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre) and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Legis. Denise Ford, gathered in front of the sanitation office Tuesday with a bipartisan group of Nassau County legislators and organizations to condemn the actions of Ryan Hemsley, who was recently elected commissioner.

The sanitation board also called for Hemsley’s resignation after a packet of Facebook posts — including ones mocking people with disabilities and images with Nazis and swastikas — he allegedly put up were anonymously sent to the other four board members and the media.

"We’re here because of vile, hatred and intolerant social media posts that cause us to stand up for the Oceanside community we know stands for something so different," Kaminsky said.

Hemsley, 38, has refused to resign after he was publicly elected to a two-year term in September. Sanitation board members said they were exploring legal options, but otherwise had no power to remove Hemsley from office until he resigns. Officials said they were not aware of his postings before he was elected. He did not attend last week's board meeting.

"People with that kind of hate in their heart should not be in public office, period," Rice said. "We’re going to figure out a way to force him out of his position. These images don’t represent this community."

Kaminsky said Hemsley as a sitting commissioner lied when he denied the posts were his. Hemsley later admitted to the board he made some of the more than 30 offensive posts — some dating back years — on his Facebook page.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing Hemsley’s position. Elected officials can be removed by the district attorney under state law or if a resident petitions a court, showing misconduct or malfeasance while in office.

Hemsley did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but posted on Facebook Sunday that he was donating his paychecks to the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying and would continue to donate his $7,500 annual salary until his term ends in two years.

"I will continue to prove to the community that I am not the person I have been made out to be," Hemsley said on his Facebook page.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito and Assemb. Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) also called on Hemsley to resign. Sanitation board members are independently elected to the special district, but the town board authorizes appointments to fill vacancies.

"I am disgusted by the offensive and hate filled social media posts that are alleged to have been posted or shared by the Sanitary District No. 7 Commissioner in question," Clavin said in a statement Monday. "Racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-disability speech does not belong in our society, and elected officials who spew such venomous remarks, writings, images and posts have no place in public service."

The sanitation board's attorney, John Ciampoli, said the board has asked Facebook to identify the posts Hemsley made and asked for the state attorney general for legal options.

"The other commissioners strongly want him off this board. The first step is to question him," Ciampoli said. "As disgusting and terrible as it may be, it doesn't reflect this district."