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Thruway fires toll collector for sending e-mail threats

By Robert J. McCarthy
November 06, 2009, 6:58 AM

The Grand Island Bridge toll collector accused of sending threatening e-mails to the leader of an anti-toll group is out of a job.

The Thruway Authority on Wednesday fired David Zelonis, 53, for misconduct.

Robert Douglas, a state hearing officer, found him guilty of sending a series of “constant and threatening” e-mails to Rus Thompson of Grand Island. The messages were meant to “badger, harass and intimidate the customer on a repeated basis,” Thruway spokeswoman Betsy L. Graham said.

Douglas found that Zelonis lacks “the ability, commitment and the focus to conform to the reasonable expectations” of the authority “to perform the basic, critical, key tasks of a toll collector to provide courteous and professional service to customers at all times,” Graham said

Zelonis was accused of targeting Thompson with the e-mails beginning in March 2007, including one that suggested a fire would start in Thompson’s house. It was alleged that Zelonis sent the intimidating e-mails because he thought Thompson’s ongoing push to remove the Grand Island toll barriers would cost him his job.

Zelonis was suspended without pay May 7, just days after he was arraigned on an aggravated harassment charge, and remained off the job for the maximum 30 days.

Thompson said Zelonis had been scheduled to appear on the harassment charge Thursday evening in Grand Island Town Court, but the case was adjourned to Dec. 2.

Terrance C. Brennan, Zelonis’ attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment.