Embattled Riverhead Town animal control officer and dog shelter head Lou Coronesi will be the subject of a civil service law hearing that could result in his termination or suspension, town officials say.
Mr. Coronesi, who has held his current position since 1999, has long drawn the ire of local animal activists and shelter volunteers, who have publicly asked the Town Board on several occasions to replace him, even though Town Board members say his employment is a personnel issue they can’t discuss in public.
On July 6, the board authorized the appointment of attorney Valerie Marvin to conduct what’s known as an Article 75 hearing under civil service law. An Article 75 hearing is required before any civil service employee can be fired. Although the resolution to hire Ms. Marvin does not name the employee, it states that the town “authorized the suspension without pay for up to 30 days of the employee, effective the day after the service of the charges upon the employee and pending the hearing and determination of those charges.”
Councilman Jim Wooten said Tuesday that Mr. Coronesi is the subject of that hearing and that the town is trying to remove him from the animal control officer position on the grounds that he has missed numerous days of work.
“He’s been AWOL,” Mr. Wooten said.
The Article 75 hearing was originally scheduled for Monday but has been postponed to another, as yet unscheduled, date.
Police Chief David Hegermiller, whose department oversees the animal control unit, declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.
Mr. Coronesi could not be reached for comment. A call was made to his home and to Eastern Wildlife Services, a business for which he is listed as a principal. The latter number was disconnected.
The conflict regarding Mr. Coronesi came to a head in December when a dog named Bruno was euthanized. At the time, Supervisor Sean Walter stated publicly that the dog had bitten a child, but the bite report filed with the county health department said the dog had bitten his 22-year-old owner, who was trying to break up a fight between Bruno and another dog at his home in Wading River. The report described the bite as “three superficial wounds” to the man’s left hand.
Mr. Walter would later say he was just repeating information given to him by Mr. Coronesi, whom the supervisor has also publicly defended.
Mr. Coronesi’s critics have also cited an incident that occurred in Arizona in 2003, in which Mr. Coronesi was convicted of hunting without a license, possessing wildlife unlawfully and possessing restricted wildlife — all misdemeanors. Those charges stemmed from allegations that he illegally took a gila monster and a very small diamondback rattlesnake.