Thursday, July 17, 2008
Andy Spano And County Police Officer
Engage In Unlawful Dealings
In the June 5, 2008 issue of The Guardian, there appeared a Letter to the Editor entitled, “Reader Exposes County Police Conflict Of Interest,” from ‘A Concerned County Resident’. The letter asked, “Does anyone find it interesting that Ron Gatto is in charge of the Environmental Enforcement Unit for the Westchester County Police, yet he has his subordinate making a Consumer Affairs arrest and subsequent vehicle impounding of a garage door installer?”
The writer went on, “All the while Ron Gatto’s wife owns a garage door installation company, and the arrested party is the Number
One competitor of Ron Gatto’s wife’s company, Whitaker Overhead Garage Door.”
The writer asked, “Is it more than coincidence that both garage door companies are from Yorktown, further proving that this was more personal than professional?” The writer closed, asking, “Are there no more environmental violators for Gatto’s unit to focus on?” The Guardian wondered what it was all about, and decided to investigate, FOILing the County Executive’s Office and the Department of
Public Safety, Mr. Gatto’s employer.
We confirmed that “Director Gatto’s annual salary is $99,725.” A request for “resumes, qualifications, and training” was denied as were payroll records and stubs. We received a copy of a press release from the County Executive’s Office which had been first issued February 28, 2008, headlined, “Unlicensed Contractor Arrested, Van Seized By County Police. First Such Seizure Under New Consumer Protection Law.”
The press release declared, “This was the first-ever seizure in Westchester, but it won’t be the last.” It went on, “The arrest Wednesday of
Jason Grotsky, owner of the Door Doctor in Jefferson Valley was the second time in a week that Grotsky was charged by County Police.”
The press release essentially confirmed what had been written in the Letter to the Editor, detailing that Grotsky, owner of Door Doctor,
was arrested for failure to have a Consumer Protection License “after E.S.U. Director Ron Gatto, Detective Carfi, and E.S.U. Inspector
Allen Carroll went to a home on Constant Avenue in Peekskill and found Door Doctor repairing a garage door.”
When The Guardian googled “Captain Ron Gatto,” we turned up numerous newspaper accounts from 1999 and 2000 when he was with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. One story that appeared in The New York Times, May 10, 2000, by Randal C. Archibold, best summarizes Gatto’s history prior to employment with Westchester County. The article, entitled “Top Pollution Officer Fired After He Promotes An Aide,” read, in part, “The officer, Deputy Chief Lee Siegel, was fired Monday, a few days after he was ordered
to revoke the promotion of Captain Ronald A. Gatto. Captain Gatto has long clashed with City offi-cials, and he sued the City last year, saying that his superiors retaliated after he complained about inaction on investigations.”
Gatto was overheard, recently, telling someone at the Yorktown Diner, following the June 5 publication of the Letter to the Editor, “I’m untouchable; I put in garage doors and did other work at Andy Spano’s house for free.”
In that connection, The Guardian confirmed that on multiple occasions in December 2003 Gatto was called to Spano’s house while on duty, on County time, to work on garage doors he installed. On one occasion, he was apparently called to Spano’s house because the County Executive was locked out.
In light of the information gathered, strongly suggesting serious conflict of interest issues with respect to the arrest of a competitor of his wife in the garage door business, and the apparent unlawful relationship with County Executive Andy Spano, The Guardian decided,
last week, that it was time to confront Mr. Gatto and afford him the opportunity to explain, and/or dispute, our discoveries.
On Wednesday, July 9, Publisher Sam Zherka, accompanied by a staff photographer and a staff assistant, traveled to the headquarters of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, and led the following report:
Wed., July 9, 2008, 6:19pm - I went to the Westchester Department of Public Safety at around 4:30pm, knowing that Ron Gatto comes out
at that time. He knew we were there and stayed inside for almost an hour, finally coming out. I told him, “Let me take a picture of you.”
I asked him, “Did you ever install doors or do any work for Andy Spano at his home? And, are you involved with Whitaker Doors?” He
said, “No, I’m a cop. I don’t know what you are talking about.” I then asked him, “Do you have anything to do with Whitaker Overhead
Doors in Yorktown?”
He said, “No.”
I asked, “Are you married to Faye Whitaker?”
He said, “No, nope. I’m married to a Faye, but not Faye Whitaker.” I persisted, “Is that her maiden name?”
He replied, “What can I tell you? No.” I then told him, “We have this allegation and I wanted to give you a chance to tell your side.”
His reply was, “It’s nonsense. I have two grandchildren, I have to go.” Again I asked, “Do you know Faye Whitaker?” Again, he said, “No, I do not!” Then I said, “Is your wife’s name Faye?”
“Yes, but not Faye Whitaker,” was his answer. I asked, “Do you know anything about Whitaker Doors?” He insisted, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I immediately called Whitaker Overhead Garage Doors, located at 1500 Front Street in Yorktown Heights and got the answering machine.
The message directed me to an emergency number, 914-447-4898. I called that number and a gentleman named Jonathan answered. I then asked for Faye Whitaker. He said, “She is not in.” I then asked for Ron Gatto. He said, “He is also not in.” I then asked Jonathan, “Are Faye
and Ron husband and wife?” He answered, “Yes they are. Now, what can I do for you?”
I asked him, “How much did the doors cost that Ron installed in Andy Spano’s house?” He asked, “Which house? The one down here, or the
one upstate?” I said, “The one in Yorktown.” He said he would check and get back to me. I told him I liked the doors and wanted a price. He
asked if they were the custom doors.
I said, “I don’t know. I just want a price.” He called me back five minutes later and said, “I just checked that job, and could not nd an invoice.
I can’t tell you how much they cost.”Ron Gatto had denied being married to Faye Whitaker; denied being associated with Whitaker Overhead Garage Doors. Yet, his employee admits he is both married to Faye Whitaker and involved in the business.
He denied knowing anything about doors installed in Andy Spano’s house; yet, his employee, Jonathan, knew about Andy’s house down here, and the house upstate. Jonathan said he could not send an invoice. That probably means they were free.
Based upon our inquiry and interviews, as well as information volunteered by persons in the community regarding Mr. Gatto’s statements
and activities, The Guardian believes there is more than ample evidence to warrant the following:
•The New York State Commission of Investigation, and/or the State Attorney General’s Office, must conduct a comprehensive investigation into the conflicted relationship between Director Ron Gatto and County Executive Andrew Spano, including, but not limited to, the material
gain by each in violation of state statutes.
•The United States Attorney’s Office must conduct a comprehensive investigation into the conduct of Director Gatto and County Executive Andrew Spano with respect to the violation of trust, and Public Integrity committed by each of them as public employees with respect to misappropriation of taxpayers’ funds as well as the violation of the civil rights, under Color of Law, of Jason Grotsky, and possibly others.
• Director Gatto must be immediately relieved of his duties pending the outcome of said investigations, lest further civil rights and ethical violations of Public Integrity occur.
• County Executive Spano must be made to account to the citizens of Westchester County as to why he should not be sanctioned and recalled from office.
• Under no circumstances may the District Attorney of Westchester County, Janet Di-Fiore, who has repeatedly demonstrated that she is conflicted in matters involving police officers and police agencies throughout Westchester County, be permitted to become involved in the