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Suffolk's missing event invite: Oversight or payback?

Dennis Hughes the father of Erika Hughes, get

Dennis Hughes the father of Erika Hughes, get a hug from Kate Browning following the the sentencing of Preston Mimms, who has pleaded guilty to the hit-and-run death of Erika Hughes. (January 4, 2013) (Credit: John Roca)

Suffolk County Legis. Kate Browning chairs lawmakers’ public safety committee, represents Bellport village, and has long been an advocate for reducing gun violence there.

So when she didn’t receive an invite to County Executive Steve Bellone’s “Gun Violence Awareness Month” press conference – scheduled to take place Wednesday in Bellport – she wondered.

Wondered, that is, whether her omission had anything to do with her fierce opposition to Bellone’s plans to close or privatize Suffolk’s John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility. Over recent months, Browning (WF-Shirley) has been highly critical of Bellone’s plans for the Yaphank facility, and she remains a plaintiff in a lawsuit that Bellone, a Democrat, needs dismissed to move forward with his latest proposal to lease the nursing home to for-profit operators.

Bellone’s office, as part of a long-practiced political courtesy, typically invites legislators to press events he holds in their districts, or to events on topics that intersect with issues they take up or committees they chair, regardless of their party affiliation.

“As Public Safety chair,” Browning said, “you would think I would be invited.”

The advisory on the press conference had first been issued late last week, and Browning noted her omission to a reporter Tuesday afternoon.

When asked about it later Tuesday afternoon, Bellone aides called it “an oversight,” and quickly called Browning to extend an invitation.

Browning remained skeptical, later telling a reporter, "oversight, really?" She said the late-coming invite reminded her of former County Executive Steve Levy, who would sometimes hold press conferences in the districts of lawmakers he was feuding with without telling them.

But a Bellone deputy said that this administration does not operate that way.

“I think we’ve had a remarkable record,” Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said of the administration’s dealings with legislators, including those who oppose some of its efforts. “I don’t think we’ve said a single bad word about a legislator, or have ever responded in a punitive way.”

The event in question is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Bellone will be joined by a Brookhaven councilwoman, Suffolk police leaders and several community activists to “outline a countywide, community-based approach to promote awareness of gun violence and how to reduce it,” his office said.

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