Board Discusses DOJ Lawsuit Against Town and Fire Department

By Stephen E. Lipken



Harrison Mayor Richard Dionisio opened the Thursday, June 16th Board of Trustees meeting, calling for a Moment of Silence. Mayor Dionisio then presented a Certificate of Achievement to James Barker of Iona Prep “for providing high-quality music education to young students.”


David Birdsall, Business and Finance Director, Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW) (in photo) outlined Capital Projects Approvals and Water Rates, saying that the average retail cost of WJWW Finished Water is Nine-Tenths of One Cent Per Gallon ($0.009). 


The Five-Year Capital Plan Total is $132,454,000; Town of Harrison’s (TOH) share is $75,068,160.  


“WJWW costs are driven by three factors: 1) Cost of New York City Water; 2) Water System Operational Cost, Treatment Plants; 3) Capital Improvements,” Birdsall said.  A 12% increase in water rates is recommended, effective 7/1/22, which would increase retail cost of finished water a little over one cent per gallon; the Board approved the increase.


Attorney Al Pirro, representing Halstead Group, Inc., appeared with Architect Mark Mustacato, regarding conversion of an empty office building on 47-49 Halstead Avenue to a multi-family dwelling.  Noting that the Planning Board issued a negative declaration permitting approval of the Text Amendment, the Town Board approved Pirro’s request.


The next Public Hearing regarded determining the amount of real property to be acquired by the Town by condemnation of property on 226 Fremont Street for installation of a municipal parking lot; 249 Halstead is in the process of being taken by eminent domain. 


Outside Counsel Brody D. Smith, Esq., Bond Schoeneck & King, Syracuse stated that it is on a Two-Family Residence (B) zone, surrounded by mostly Central Business District (CBD) zoned properties including a structure with approximately 2,050 feet of gross building area. 


Attorney Gary Bashian appeared before the Board, representing property owner David Cristiano, calling for a fair evaluation of the parcel, saying that the Town’s appraisal was $600,000; Cristiano’s amount was $850,000.


The Board adopted a negative SEQRA resolution; Village Attorney Jonathan Kraut recommended continuing dialogue regarding the acquisition fees. 


Finally, Trustee Lauren Leader discussed the impending sexual harassment lawsuit on Wednesday, June 8th, by the Department of Justice {DOJ}, alleging that the Town/Village of Harrison and its Fire District Two and Volunteer Fire Department Number 1 discriminated and retaliated against female firefighter Angela Bommarito, pressured by senior firefighter Henry Mohr with unwanted sexual advances in 2015, stalking her and using sexually demeaning expletives in front of other firefighters.


Bommarito subsequently signed a resignation letter prepared by the Police Chief after he threatened to arrest her and report her other alleged relationships to Harrison’s Fire Commissioners. Soon after, Bommarito attempted to withdraw the resignation but Harrison Fire Department proceeded with her termination. 


Following Bommarito’s departure, Mohr continued to harass and stalk her. Mohr was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to harassment in the second degree. A family court judge also entered an order of protection against Mohr. 


Title VII authorizes the Department of Justice to commence an action in the United States District Court against Harrison and Harrison Fire Department to remedy discrimination on the basis of sex and retaliation in violation of Title VII. The United States’ complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages on behalf of Bommarito. 


The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit.

 Henry Mohr resigned from the Fire Department in mid-June.