On July 16, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced the indictment of Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic Beach), who has served in the 3rd District since January 2018.
Sunderman, 49, is being indicted for alleged perjury, ethics violations and other offenses in connection with his work as the former district manager of the Centereach Fire District that continued after he become legislator. An independent investigation by the Suffolk County Board of Ethics was referred to the district attorney’s office.
“This was a violation of the very laws that Legislator Sunderman has sworn to uphold,” Sini said. “These laws are in place to prevent potential conflicts of interest for lawmakers, prevent corruption and protect the integrity of ethics investigations.”
Prior to his election to the Suffolk County legislature in November 2017, Sunderman was employed as the district manager for the Centereach Fire District, earning approximately $175,000 a year, and as the district secretary for the Center Moriches Fire District, earning approximately $20,000 a year. On Dec. 6, 2017, Sunderman received an opinion from the Suffolk County Board of Ethics that continuing to serve in these roles while serving as a legislator would constitute a violation of the Suffolk County code’s prohibition on dual office-holding. Sunderman resigned from his position with the Center Moriches Fire District, according to the DA’s office.
Sunderman is alleged to have attempted to circumvent that ruling by creating a shell company in his wife’s name, Now That’s Fire Management, Inc., and arranging for the Centereach Board of Fire Commissioners to hire him through that company for $10,000 per month. Between Jan. 2, 2018 and June 30, 2018, despite the Board of Ethics’ determination, Sunderman allegedly continued to perform the duties of a district manager for the Centereach Fire District, including personally signing more than 600 vouchers and other official documents as district manager for the Centereach Fire District. Vouchers and purchase orders that Sunderman signed as “DM” or “District Manager” included those that authorized $60,000 in payments to Now That’s Fire Management, which is a violation of state municipal law regarding conflicts of interest, according to the DA’s office.
Following receipt of a complaint, the Suffolk County Board of Ethics began an investigation into Sunderman’s employment with the Centereach Fire District. On Oct. 29, 2018, during a deposition in connection with the investigation, Sunderman allegedly perjured himself on numerous occasions, including denying that he received any income from his continued work for the Centereach Fire District. Bank records obtained by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office showed that Sunderman was a signatory on Now That’s Fire Management’s corporate bank account, that the account was used for Sunderman’s personal expenses and that the county legislator had personally engaged in more than 100 transactions and spent thousands of dollars using a debit card issued to him on that bank account.
Sunderman also allegedly denied under oath managing fire district staff members after January 2018. Evidence developed over the course of the investigation showed that Sunderman continued to manage employees and represent himself as “District Manager” until he resigned from the position in June 2018, after the Board of Ethics began to investigate his conduct.
On April 23, 2019, Sunderman allegedly intentionally failed to disclose his outside employment and income as well as his wife’s income from the Centereach Fire Department on a financial disclosure form filed with the Suffolk County Board of Ethics for the 2018 reporting year.
Thomas Doyle, chairman of the Centereach Fire District board of fire commissioners, said the board was informed of the indictment July 16.
“The Centereach Fire District is cooperating with the Suffolk County District Attorney, and we refer all questions regarding this case to his office,” Doyle said. “The board of fire commissioners will have no further comment on this matter at this time.”
Sunderman is charged with five counts of perjury in the first degree; offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree; violation of the prohibition on dual office-holding under Suffolk County code; violation of the prohibition against conflicts of interest under general municipal law; and intentional failure to file an accurate financial disclosure statement under Suffolk County code.
Sunderman was arraigned on the indictment July 16 in front of Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. and was released on his own recognizance. He is due back in court Aug.13, and if convicted of the top count, Sunderman faces a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.