Oyster Bay Supervisor expressed "shock" at the arrest of , saying he found the sexual abuse charges "deeply disturbing," and vowed to address town hiring policies as the case goes forward.
In an exclusive interview with Patch following Tuesday morning's Town Board meeting, Venditto said an extensive background check was done on Torres before he was hired in 2002 by both the Nassau County Civil Service Commission as well as in a separate investigation by the
Going forward, Venditto said the town will examine its hiring practices and make changes if necessary. "As we learn more (about the case) if there are lessons to be learned from this and things to be done in the future, the Town of Oyster Bay will do them," Venditto said.
The town and the Commission were aware of Torres' past, which included a . The town felt strongly that Torres had reformed and could be of value to others, Venditto said. There was nothing in the background checks to indicate Torres had inappropriate contact with children, town officials said.
Nassau County's Civil Service Commission also approved Torres' hiring. All town employees go through the same double background checks at the county and local level before they are hired, Venditto said.
"Part of his story (to young people) was how he overcame his difficulties, and how they could, too," said Venditto of Torres' drug conviction dating to 1985. "He was a motivational speaker as well as a coach who conducted clinics. And he was really in demand."
The Town was convinced that Torres could provide a meaningful service to residents and his message could be an asset to schools and community organizations, Venditto said. Torres was already a motivational speaker and was acclaimed at the time of his hire as someone with an inspirational story to tell, Venditto said.
In fact, Torres was booked solid through much of the year and not just during the baseball season, Venditto said. Torres appeared at school functions, at church groups and numerous baseball-related clinics.
"He spoke to tens of thousands of parents and children over that period," Venditto said. "He had been only an exemplary employee up to this point (of his arrest)."
Until Torres was jailed last week, Venditto said no one in the town ever heard of complaints about the former major league player, including any allegations of inappropriate behavior around children.
"When someone has established his credibility it makes it all the harder to comprehend (the sexual abuse allegations)," the Supervisor said.
But Venditto said he read the complete police have lodged against Torres. The legal document contains specific allegations of sexual abuse and admissions of guilt by Torres. The report (attached here) also makes reference to physical evidence related to the victim's clothing.
"I was sickened," Venditto said. "(The allegations) were pretty shameful and not particularly pleasant to read."
Torres, 63, of North Massapequa, was arrested Monday May 7 by Nassau Police, who charged him in connection with two separate instances of sexual abuse involving an 8-year-old girl. The incidents took place in a town-owned van driven by Torres to a clinic in Plainview, police said.
Venditto has said that the town is cooperating with the investigation. Torres, who is out of jail on $50,000 bail, has been suspended without pay and his clinics cancelled.