Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.
When Brookhaven Town Board member Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld said last May he would not seek re-election, his lawyer said the Democratic councilman had been "mulling offers for months for other financial opportunities."
An electioneering probe by the district attorney in which three computers were seized from the councilman's office played no role, said lawyer Edward Yule.
But when Fiore-Rosenfeld exited last week after a decade as a $68,000-a-year councilman, his opportunity turned out to be a $96,000-a-year patronage job as an assistant county attorney, which started Jan. 2.
Just before he left office, his former town secretary Jocelyn Rush, 40, went public with a lawsuit in State Supreme Court, alleging her former boss repeatedly harassed her and pressed her to do political work, though unethical. She also alleges he gave a $10,000 bonus to another aide who did political work while Rush got only $1,000 because she would not do such work because she has multiple sclerosis.
"Where else can you get a $20,000 raise after you've been accused of habitual harassment?" said John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman. "Either [County Executive Steve] Bellone's staff is wildly incompetent or they knew the circumstances and went ahead anyway. . . . The question is, What are they going to do now?"
Bellone aides said they were not aware of the lawsuit, filed two days before Christmas, until told about it by Newsday. But Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider downplayed GOP comments as partisan sniping. "I'm glad John LaValle could take the time off from losing county elections to comment on this personnel matter," he said. He added that the job offer was made before the suit was filed.
County Attorney Dennis Brown said Fiore-Rosenfeld's work would be evaluated, but he expects him to be a "good asset" because of his municipal experience.
Yule said Fiore-Rosenfeld did nothing wrong and Rush's lawsuit has no merit. "The attacks on my client are defamatory and false," he said. "Appropriate legal countermeasures will be launched." He said Rush's suit includes no specifics, such as times or dates of incidents. He also said harassment claims have a one-year statute of limitations, which has run out.
Yule described Rush as a second-generation political operative looking for a payday. "This is very simply a case of another civil servant trying to get extra cash."
Rush's attorney Anthony Carabba Jr. did not return calls for comment.
Rush, who began work for the councilman in 2008, stated in court papers that her former boss became "severely abusive" in 2010 after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which affected her health and forced her to take a medical leave in 2012. She seeks her salary, back pay with interest, compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.
In papers, Rush said the councilman would use curse words and "engaged in full blown tirades and rants . . . over nonsensical issues . . . until he made her cry." Rush also claimed that he "prohibited her from taking lunch breaks."
Rush also claims Fiore-Rosenfeld "required . . . as part . . . of her employment, to help him with his election campaign . . . by going door to door with campaign materials."
When Rush said she could not do such work because of her illness, she said the councilman wanted her to "direct her young children to go door to door."
While Rush's complaints center on her boss, the suit also alleges other town officials did "absolutely nothing" when she sought help more than a dozen times.
Town officials declined to comment on the suit. They said town computers taken by investigators last spring have yet to be returned. A district attorney's spokesman had no comment on the fate of the computers or the investigation.