| Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson explores the charges filed against former Yorktown Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo.
Eric DiBartolo has stood as a rock-solid pillar of Yorktown’s business and municipal government establishment for decades.
He was the chief of the Yorktown Heights fire department, president of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, and served four terms as Yorktown’s highway superintendent.
He was stalwart in Yorktown Republican circles, and an innovator with a knack for bringing the northern Westchester town together at events such as the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop by the gazebo in Yorktown Heights.
Earlier this month, that pillar was shaken when DiBartolo was charged with stealing close to $15,000 worth of building supplies and tools from Home Depot in Cortlandt Manor. Police said he did so in what’s known in the retail world as “sweet-hearting.” That’s when a sales clerk fails to scan items of a friend or family member at the check-out register.
It happened 23 times in 2020, according to Westchester County police. DiBartolo, who is listed as a member of the Chamber of Commerce executive committee in its latest newsletter, faces four counts of grand larceny, which are felonies; 19 misdemeanor counts of petit larceny; and a single count of scheme to defraud 2nd degree, also a misdemeanor.
His accomplice, Tyrone Bass, faces similar charges. Each of the misdemeanor counts could bring up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Conviction on Class E felony charges carry penalties ranging from probation to up to four years in prison.
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Police allege DiBartolo sweetened the arrangement by making a small payment to Bass when the clerk allowed him through the check-out line without scanning all of the merchandise that DiBartolo had placed in his cart. Both Bass and DiBartolo have yet to be arraigned in Cortlandt Town Court.
Not paying for $15,000 in merchandise meant he failed to pay sales tax as well, depriving the state, county, town of Yorktown and the Yorktown school district of close to $1,300 in sales tax.
DiBartolo co-owns Rainbow Bridge Pet Crematory, with his wife, Liz. DiBartolo has trained K-9 dogs to investigate arson, which he used while serving as a Westchester County fire investigator. Local police and fire departments whose K-9 dogs die can take them for free to Rainbow Bridge to be cremated, according to the company’s website.
Calls to DiBartolo were not returned.
At the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, DiBartolo was lauded by several prominent Yorktown Republicans and Democrats in 2018 when he completed his fourth year as the organization’s president. He served along with Democrat Aaron Bock, and Republican Town Board member Tom Diana and former Supervisor Michael Grace, also a Republican.
“You leave a legacy which will be hard to emulate,” wrote Grace in the December 2018 newsletter.
Interviews with Yorktown residents found mixed reactions to DiBartolo’s arrest.
Former Town Councilman Jim Martarano, a columnist for the Yorktown News and Legal Aid attorney in the Bronx, said news of DiBartolo’s legal problems saddened him.
“I always had a good relationship with Eric, both socially and working on town business,” he said. “It was just sad to hear that story. It’s always sad when you hear someone you’ve known having a issue. I hope it’s resolved well.”
Stephen Gardner, who failed in his bid to oust DiBartolo in 2008, was stunned to learn of the charges.
“I found it a little bit hard to believe, honestly,” said Gardiner, who operates large construction equipment through the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 137. “It sounds so ridiculous for somebody to get involved in something so petty.”
Town Supervisor Matt Slater said it’s time for the legal process to begin.
“It is always disappointing and disturbing when a public official is accused of wrongdoing,” Slater said. “It’s now in the hands of the justice system to investigate and determine the outcome.”
No stranger to the legal system
The 1979 Yorktown High graduate has been in some legal battles before.
In 2010, then-Yorktown Supervisor Susan Siegel needed help putting up decorations for the Memorial Day parade. With the town’s bucket truck unavailable, Siegal asked the Yorktown school district if the town could borrow its truck to prepare for the annual community event.
When the request was denied, Siegel remarked to a school official that she surmised the denial was linked to the “relationship” DiBartolo had with the sister of another school official who worked for DiBartolo in the highway department.
DiBartolo then sued Siegal for defamation, alleging she said he’d had a “sexual relationship” with the woman. After years in court, the judge found that there was no evidence that Siegel had alleged a “sexual relationship,” and that Siegel’s comments were protected because she did it in her role as town supervisor. Nevertheless, DiBartolo was given $3,500 in a settlement.
A laborer in the Highway Department, Kyle Gulitz, tangled with DiBartolo in 2008 after he accused his boss of allowing a continuous barrage of anti-Semitic remarks. That case was ultimately settled out of court.
By 2012, DiBartolo struck back with a defamation case against Gulitz and William LaPierre, the owner of Clark Funeral Home in Yorktown. Clark Funeral Home was then a competitor of Yorktown Funeral Home, where DiBartolo worked, court records show.
LaPierre, meanwhile, had filed a lawsuit, charging DiBartolo with conflicts of interest, which was based in part on a 2011 state comptroller’s audit. The state report raised questions about a $100,000 contract DiBartolo made with a company where his two brothers worked. The case was ultimately withdrawn.
Yorktown Town Board member Vishnu Patel said that these charges, if proven true, could spell the end of DiBartolo’s influence in the town.
“I think he’ll be gone once and for all,” he said.
Follow Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson on Facebook and Twitter @davidmckay415.