Lawrence Schwartz, Regina Calcaterra -- key figures in controversy -- started in Suffolk

Lawrence Schwartz, then chief of staff, talks in Lawrence Schwartz, then chief of staff, talks in Albany on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 while Moreland Commission director Regina Calcaterra is shown in Albany on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Photo Credit: Mike Groll

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Two key officials who have come under fire for their roles in a controversy involving a state anti-corruption panel both got their first major political posts in Suffolk County.

A New York Times story last week described how Lawrence Schwartz, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's top aide, repeatedly interjected himself into the corruption probe. The story also detailed how Regina Calcaterra, as executive director of Cuomo's Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, kept Cuomo's office informed of the panel's activities through numerous emails.

The story said the governor's office "deeply compromised the panel's work." The probe was shut down only halfway through its expected 18-month job.

Schwartz worked as campaign manager, and later as deputy, to Democratic Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin from 1987 through 1991.

Calcaterra served as chief deputy to incumbent County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, in 2012.

Paul Sabatino, a former Suffolk deputy county executive, said while Schwartz and Calcaterra worked in different eras, "they were like Fred and Ginger -- using the same dance card and steps. They both tap-danced on the heads of any officials who got in their way."

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Both declined to comment, a Cuomo spokesman said.

Alan Schneider, who has served as Suffolk's top civil service official during Democratic and Republican administrations, said Schwartz and Calcaterra "could have been identical twins. They were both very driven, extremely intelligent [people] who expected things to be done the way they wanted and done correctly."

Others said people skills were not their strong suit.

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"Larry was more a pit bull than a cocker spaniel -- the problem with a pit bull is in time they get out of control," said Commissioner of Jurors Michael O'Donohoe, a former Conservative Suffolk lawmaker.

Schwartz was so unpopular county lawmakers wrote his job out of the county budget. It was later restored in a court settlement after Halpin brought a lawsuit.

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said Calcaterra had little regard for lawmakers' input.

"No matter what anyone said you always felt she had already cut her deals," Browning said. "It was either her way or the highway."

Calcaterra, 47, a securities lawyer, joined Bellone after she tried to run for State Senate but was thrown off the ballot over residency issues. She became Bellone's chief deputy after heading his county executive transition team.

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Strains appeared after a draft memo of hers suggesting Bellone's predecessor Steve Levy could be subject to a federal fraud probe for making incorrect fiscal projections was leaked. Bellone disowned the memo, calling it "a rookie mistake."

Calcaterra later clashed with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials during superstorm Sandy in fall 2012. She left before the end of that year to head a Moreland Commission probe into electrical utilities' response to the storm. She then worked for the state housing division before joining the public corruption panel for a short-lived stint.

Schwartz, a former State Senate aide, left the county when Halpin lost re-election. He later worked as a deputy county executive in Westchester, then for Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer downplayed any impact of last week's revelations on either official or on Cuomo's fall re-election campaign.

He said Schwartz and Calcaterra "both have experience and a work ethic that is second to none and a loyalty to the taxpayers they were appointed to serve.

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"What people want to hear about are issues like creating jobs, improving education and a better quality of life."

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