Labriola sues Schnirman for defamation

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Republican candidate Steve Labriola (left) is suing Nassau Count Comptroller Jack Schnirman (right) for making false remarks during the 2017 campaign. (Photos by Amelia Camurati)

It has been seven months since Jack Schnirman was elected Nassau County comptroller, but tensions are still simmering between him and his opponent.

Steve Labriola, the Republican nominee for comptroller, has filed a $2 million lawsuit against his rival accusing him of making “malicious and patently false statements” during the campaign.

The lawsuit, filed by Byron Divins Jr. of Divins and Divins in Garden City, says that Schnirman falsely claimed during the campaign that Labriola was responsible for “corrupt contracts” given out during the tenure of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, according to Newsday.

These contracts were the focus of a criminal investigation into Mangano, who spent the last 12 weeks in federal court in Central Islip to determine whether he was guilty for accepting gifts from restaurateur Harendra Singh.

A mistrial was declared for Mangano and his wife, Linda, late last month. Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto was charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, securities fraud and honest services wire fraud. He was found not guilty.

Labriola worked for Mangano, but the lawsuit says that he did not start work there until 2015, after Mangano had already awarded the contracts. Labriola previously served in the New York Assembly and as the town clerk for Oyster Bay.

According to Newsday, Labriola notified Schnirman during the campaign that the claim against him was false, but the Schnirman campaign continued to run the ads.

“[Schnirman’s] accusations are false, have no basis in reality and are not based upon any conviction or other activity,” Divins wrote, according to Newsday.

The lawsuit claims that the campaign ads damaged his reputation and is seeking $1 million in damages for defamation and $1 million for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Newsday reported. He is seeking a jury trial.

Kim Devlin, a political adviser to Schnirman, said that the lawsuit had no merit.

“This is a ridiculous waste of the court’s time by a candidate who lost his race seven months ago,” she said. “It would be laughable if it weren’t so bizarre. Jack is focused on reforming Nassau County as he was elected to do.”

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