County Legislator Sunderman pleads guilty to filing false financial disclosure

Suffolk County Legislator Rudolph Sunderman pleaded guilty Friday to charges of filing a false financial disclosure form with the county Board of Ethics.

Mr. Sunderman, 51, has held the Third Legislative District seat since January 2018. He pleaded guilty in Suffolk County court to “intentional failure to file an accurate financial disclosure statement,” which is a misdemeanor and a violation of Suffolk’s code of ethic for elected officials.

As part of the plea agreement, Mr. Sunderman, of Mastic, was sentenced to a conditional discharge. He waved his right to appeal and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.

 “This legislator was told by the Suffolk County Board of Ethics that he was not permitted under the law to continue to get paid by the Centereach Fire District on top of his six-figure legislator salary,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a press release. “Instead of simply doing the right thing, he created a sham company in his wife’s name to try to get around the ruling. When the Board of Ethics started asking questions about this employment, he filed a false Financial Disclosure Form with the Board of Ethics concealing $60,000 in outside income paid to that company for his continued work for the Fire District.”

The district attorney went on to say that, with the plea agreement, “the defendant is a convicted criminal who is disqualified from holding the position of trust that he betrayed through his actions.”

Prior to his election to the Suffolk County Legislature, Mr. Sunderman served as the district manager for the Centereach Fire District, earning $175,000 a year. In addition, he was paid $20,000 a year as the district secretary.

To get around the county ethics law, Mr. Sini said, Mr. Sunderman created a shell company called Now That’s Fire Management, Inc., in his wife’s name. He then arranged for the district’s Board of Fire Commissioners to hire that company for $10,000 a month.

“Between Jan. 2, 2018, and June 30, 2018, despite the Board of Ethics’ determination, Sunderman continued to work for the Centereach Fire District, resulting in $60,000 in payments to Now That’s Fire Management, Inc.,” Mr. Sini said. Sunderman then “intentionally failed to disclose his outside employment as well as his wife’s income from the fire district on a financial disclosure form…”

Mr. Sunderman, a Republican, remains in the Suffolk County Legislature.

In October 2020, Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer, a Democrat who represents the 18th Legislative District in Huntington Town, was arrested after he attempted to trade prescription opioids for sexual favors with an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. That case remains pending in Suffolk First District Court.