Spin Cycle

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Waiver for Bellone PR staffer who lives in Brooklyn

Suffolk’s Government Operations Committee approved a one-year residency waiver for County Executive Steve Bellone’s newest spokesman Tim Ruggeri, a Long Island native who lives in Brooklyn — but not before one legislator raised concerns about the hire in light of last year's county layoffs.

“I know that we had layoffs of people in the Police Department in public information that have a background in what this person does,” Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said at a hearing Thursday. “Would we not be wiser in giving one of them a job rather than hiring someone from Brooklyn? I think plenty of Suffolk County residents can do the job that this person is doing.”

Before moving to Brooklyn, Ruggeri was a lifelong Suffolk resident , according to the resolution requesting the waiver. He previously served as the Town of Babylon spokesman where he made $71,754, before Bellone hired him as a $95,000-a-year county executive assistant in late December.

Browning questioned the need for an addition to the county executive’s communications team, which includes Ruggeri and Bellone spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

“How many PR [public relations] people does he [Bellone] really need?” Browning asked. “What he’s got is sufficient. We can’t keep hiring people because of who they are.”

After the meeting, Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider defended the hire, saying Ruggeri was filling a vacant position and said Bellone has "30 percent less staff than his predecessor," former County Executive Steve Levy.

"We're working hard to run this office as efficiently as possible," Schneider said.
 
Legis. William Spencer (D-Huntington) said he supported the waiver because he felt the county executive and legislators “have a right to hire whoever is the best person for the job.”

 “I consider him a Suffolk County resident and I support him for that reason,” Spencer said.

Under the resolution that will go before the full legislature on Tuesday, Ruggeri will have a year to decide whether he moves back to Suffolk.

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