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Suffolk’s former chief deputy comptroller on Wednesday accused his former boss, Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, of making a political deal with County Executive Steve Bellone to back the merger with the treasurer’s office so he could get around the county term limit law.
“The comptroller was at the end of his term and had no place to go so he made a political end run to stay in office by conjuring up a deal with Bellone,” said Joseph Poerio, Sawicki’s former chief deputy. He said the deal would allow Sawicki to run for the top job in the merged office, and eliminate Sawicki as a potential opponent when Bellone seeks re-election.
“It was so political and so obvious, it’s beyond belief,” Poerio said.
Under the Bellone’s proposal, the offices would merge come January, if voters approve the proposal in a referendum in November. Sawicki would be put in charge of the merged office during the transition year until an election could be held for the top post in November 2014.
Sawicki’s current term as comptroller is not up until next year, but he cannot now seek another term as comptroller under the county’s 12 year term limit law. Bellone’s proposal would make Sawicki eligible to run for up to 12 more years for the newly created office.
Sawicki said he inherited Poerio as chief deputy when he took office in 2002 and that he “obviously has an ax to grind.”
Sawicki said Poerio “epitomizes what a disgruntled employee stands for because he lost out to me for the comptroller’s nomination. I gave him every chance to prove himself . . . but after a year and four months I was not happy with his work ethic. He was not an asset to the office any more.” Sawicki said he had to fire Poerio in 2004.
Poerio made his comments at a county executive public hearing into legislation on the referendum. Bellone, who sponsored the referendum measure, has until Aug. 30 to sign it.
Republican Treasurer Angie Carpenter, whose job would be axed under the merger, warned that the move would put the county “on a collision course headed to financial disaster” by eliminating checks and balances.
Carpenter, who lost to Bellone for county executive two years ago, also said Bellone’s claimed savings from the merger are “ever evaporating.”