Long Beach Acting City Manager Rob Agostisi announced Monday that he would resign next month to serve as chief legal officer for the Hauppauge-based LGBT Network, after a scathing draft audit of the city’s finances and separation payout practices was released.
The announcement, which was first made by City Council President Anissa Moore on Facebook, comes just eight months after he was appointed to the position by a 3-2 vote. Agostisi, 43, who has also served as the city's corporation counsel since 2014, has worked for the city for 13 years. He informed the five-member council Monday that he would stay on through Oct. 1. The council has yet to say who would replace Agostisi.
“Obviously, the onerous is going to be on the council now to find somebody to lead the city, and there are viable candidates,” Council Vice President John Bendo said.
Agostisi declined to comment on his departure. In a news release, LGBT Network President and Chief Executive Officer David Kilmnick lauded Agostisi, who is set to begin his role on Oct. 21. He will lead what was described as Long Island’s first free legal clinic that will provide resources to address discrimination, hate crimes, name and gender changes, immigration and family law issues.
“Rob is a skilled attorney with extensive experience in private practice and the public sector,” Kilmnick said in a statement. “He is the ideal person to join our team as the LGBT Network’s first chief legal officer.”
Agostisi’s resignation comes less than two weeks after the audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office was provided to the city, which found in part that the city had overpaid 10 current and former employees more than $500,000 in separation payouts in the 2017-18 fiscal year, including Agostisi, and that the city payouts have exceeded limits set in city code and contracts for at least 25 years. Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, are also investigating the city’s payout practices.
“The audit review released by the comptroller is disturbing and warrants council action,” Moore said at the Sept. 3 meeting.
Those with knowledge of his resignation said that Agostisi’s departure was unrelated to the draft audit and that his role with the LGBT Network had been in the works before its release, adding that disagreements with some council members came to a head on Monday.
For months, questions have swirled over whether Agostisi would remain acting city manager since former City Council President Anthony Eramo and Vice President Chumi Diamond — who had supported Agostisi in the role — lost in the June Democratic primary, triggering a power shift on the council. Eramo did not immediately return a request for comment.
Moore, now the council president, had recently said that some council members would revisit talks of potentially hiring an executive search firm to hire a permanent city manager, which the city has been without since former City Manager Jack Schnirman left after he was elected county comptroller in 2017.
Moore, along with Bendo and Councilman Scott Mandel, had intended to hold a special meeting on Tuesday morning to vote on a resolution to bring in outside legal counsel to assist in the investigations, help guide the council in how to recoup overpayments — as recommended in the draft audit — and order Agostisi to provide the council with a copy of a separation agreement he had entered into with Schnirman within 48 hours.
In the draft audit, Agostisi’s agreement came under scrutiny. He received a $128,000 payout in 2017 because he had intended to leave for a job at the Town of Hempstead, and attempted to return the payment when he decided to continue working for the city, but was told he could not.
According to the audit, Agostisi received $119,855, or 80 percent of his unused leave accruals in November 2017, which the audit attributed to the terms of an amended agreement he reached with the city in exchange for delaying his proposed resignation. The remaining 20 percent would be paid when he left the city’s employment.
Under city code, however, auditors said that Agostisi’s drawdown of accrued time should have been limited to 40 hours, or $2,918. The auditors also questioned whether the city could enter into the agreement to provide a ‘terminal payout’ that appeared inconsistent with the city’s code for exempt employees. Agostisi is still owed for additional accrued sick and vacation time since 2018, but council members said it was not yet clear how much he would be paid out.
Bendo said he had requested a copy of the agreement for more than a year.
“There was an inherent conflict of interest that the corporation counsel — who is the chief legal adviser for the city and to the City Council — had received a payment himself that was under investigation,” Bendo said. “Some members of the council felt that the council needed to get unbiased legal advice to be able to respond to the recommendations made in the state comptroller’s draft audit.”
City officials maintain that Agostisi had recused himself from representing the city in the investigation and to avoid a conflict of interest, the city had brought in an outside attorney last year, former federal prosecutor Anthony Capozzolo, who they said has cooperated fully with investigators. Some council members said they had only recently learned that Capozzolo had been hired.
On Monday night, Moore said on Facebook that she had received a copy of Agostisi’s agreement that afternoon. In an email to the entire council that day, obtained by the Herald, Moore said that she believed it was no longer necessary to hold the special meeting.
“I am here at City Hall in an effort to address the situation,” Moore wrote. “In light of the fluidity of the situation, I am rescinding my initial request and ask that the council be prepared to discuss the matter as soon as possible. Please keep in mind that a quorum is necessary to achieve the initial proposed resolution and this will not take place tomorrow.”
Moore could not be reached for comment. On Facebook, she said Agostisi had informed the council at 9:25 p.m. of his intent to resign.