MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A dispute between Councilman Mike Barile and Journal News columnist David McKay Wilson reached the breaking point at last Wednesday’s Town Board meeting (Sept. 18) when Barile accused Wilson of harassing and photographing his family members and threw a water bottle that hit the journalist.
Barile then got a hold of Wilson’s phone—the circumstances of which are under dispute—and took it outside and threw it across the parking lot. The phone was quickly retrieved.
Barile’s son-in-law, Michael Stern, also had to be restrained from going after Wilson.
Tensions between Barile and Wilson have remained high for several months since Wilson began writing a series of “Tax Watch” columns for The Journal News that have accused Barile of wrongdoing in the way he’s handled the Swan Cove park project and, more recently, the issue of a sewer hookup at Blu Restaurant on South Lake Boulevard, a property that Barile owns.
Wilson’s columns contend that Barile and his partner, Tommy Boniello, lacked the necessary approvals from state and New York City regulatory agencies to hook into the sewer main. (The restaurant had been using a septic system since the early 1990s.) Wilson’s latest column contends that the restaurant “lies outside the boundaries of Carmel Sewer District No. 1, so [Barile] will not be billed for sewer service enjoyed by his popular lakeside restaurant.”
Democratic Party leaders who were contacted by Wilson for his column said the councilman, a Republican, is guilty of theft of services and have called for his resignation.
At last week’s meeting, Supervisor Ken Schmitt said that he and the other board members were limited in what they could say about the sewer issue because they were in the process of hiring an independent counsel to represent them. The regular town attorney, Greg Folchetti, has recused himself from the matter.
“The board is in the process of interviewing outside legal counsel to assist us and we’ve been advised not to comment further on this matter,” the supervisor said. “Until such time that we’ve been able to reach out to counsel, we are not going to comment further.”
However, Councilman Jonathan Schneider said he believes the truth will eventually come out and urged patience.
“The information on this issue seems to be changing hourly and Councilman Barile said he’ll be willing to answer everything that is out there and says he’s an open book,” Schneider said. “I am hoping it’s very simple and fact-based. Get all the information together and make sure there is transparency, and that nothing was done incorrectly because the accusations that are out there don’t help the town at all if they are not founded. And I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty. I am going to give [Barile] the benefit of the doubt.”
At one point in the meeting, Barile placed a large stack of documents on the dais, saying it was paperwork that would exonerate him and invited anyone who wanted—except Wilson—to come to his office and examine them. He referred to Wilson as “Dr. Seuss” throughout the evening.
“When I took this job, I knew this stuff was coming. I didn’t know it would be this relentless. [Wilson] obviously has a love for me,” Barile said. “But I’ve gotten hundreds of texts and phone calls telling me to keep going, don’t let [Wislon] bother you.”
The altercation between Wilson and Barile began after the meeting adjourned and Wilson, with his phone, continued to videotape Barile while hurling questions at the councilman. Barile accused Wilson of taking pictures of his adult daughter and other family members, who he said were off-limits. Barile, still behind the dais, then hurled a plastic water bottle at Wilson, which struck the reporter.
“As an elected official I sincerely apologize for my actions, but parents will understand why I did what I did,” Barile told Mahopac News. “He takes pictures of my kids. He’s sick and a pervert. As a parent, I should have knocked him out. Enough was enough.”
After he threw the water bottle, Barile came around the dais and confronted Wilson. Barile said he did not take the phone away from Wilson, but that Wilson offered it to him to show the councilman that there were no pictures of his family on the phone.
“He put the phone right in my hand to show me there were no pictures,” Barile said, adding that he intended to throw the phone in the trash but couldn’t find a receptacle so he went outside and tossed it across the road.
“I have three daughters and this guy skeeves me out,” Barile said. “It has nothing to do with politics or my business.”
Schmitt called the incident “extremely unfortunate.”
“It’s not something you want taking place in the town hall or anywhere else, and I don’t condone it,” he said. “But with that said, Councilman Barile does a fine job for the community. He has always had the best interest of the community at heart. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have run. This reporter has been writing stories about Councilman Barile and there comes a time when any good journalist knows when you have taken it to another level. I feel he crossed the line. I understand from my law enforcement background, that if you continue to poke at someone and antagonize and go after them in an inappropriate manner, eventually that person is just going to have enough of it and will react to it. It’s unfortunate that it occurred, but it was created by the reporter who didn’t realize when it was time to back away.”
Schneider said of the incident, “I don’t want anyone to think that any of this is acceptable behavior, especially at meetings of elected official governing official business.”
Schmitt declined to comment when asked whether he felt a crime had been committed. But Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari said that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department was handling the investigation because his department’s involvement could be considered a conflict of interest.
Cazzari said that although the meeting had ended and the TV cameras had cut off and did not record the incident, the town hall’s security surveillance cameras have footage that could be used in the investigation.
When reached by Mahopac News, Wilson said he couldn’t comment on the incident at this time.