A video showing Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla repeatedly touching the arm of an employee he’s accused of trying to coerce into dropping a sexual harassment complaint against him was played in court Tuesday.
Ariel Davis, now a former employee, testified on the second day of the trial that she filed a complaint with the town’s Human Resources department after Bonilla allegedly made suggestive remarks and touched her inappropriately. She said she stopped dressing up and started wearing baggy pants after he told her to wear dresses and heels to “sell herself.”
“I thought someone would take my outfit as a way to sexually harass me,” she told the court while being cross examined by Adrian DiLuzio, Bonilla’s Mineola-based attorney.
DiLuzio argued that Bonilla made a typical request, noting that “good looking, attractive people” are highly valued in politics.
She also said when Bonilla heard there was an office rumor that the two were having sex, Bonilla told her: “Let them think that. If its not hurting anybody, so be it.”
Davis confirmed that that she received a promotion as a full-time employee upon filing the complaint and DiLuzio questioned Davis’ intent by suggesting that she saw an opportunity to take advantage of Bonilla, which Davis denied.
She testified that Bonilla had referred to her as his “right-hand girl” and told her that he “needed to come before everyone else” and “prove herself” to him in exchange for favors, such as extra money in her paycheck.
Davis testified that Bonilla sought “inappropriate photos” of her from her ex-boyfriend, also a former employee, in an attempt to discredit her.
“Do not trust Ariel, she’s a bad person,” Davis recalled Bonilla telling her ex-boyfriend upon asking for the photos, a request that she deemed inappropriate. “Make sure you have something on her.”
She said that she was not aware of the exact photos in question, but that they were “personal, private photos,” that she shared with her ex-boyfriend while they were seeing each other.
According to Davis, she and her ex-boyfriend, who is also expected to testify, made the decision to give Bonilla a blank compact disc to give her ex-boyfriend “some time to figure out what he actually can do to keep his job,” under the belief that Bonilla would fire him if he did not hand over photos.
Bonilla, a Republican who pleaded not guilty to coercion and misconduct charges last fall, has refused to step down as town clerk despite numerous calls for his resignation.
The trial resumes Wednesday afternoon before Judge Sharon Gianelli at First District Court in Hempstead.