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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is seriously exploring the idea of eliminating the elected job of sheriff and putting the county jail and corrections operations under an appointed commissioner who would be responsible to him, several county sources said.
Bellone first raised the idea quietly last year but recently renewed talks and even considered putting the issue before voters in November, but time ran out. Justin Meyer, Bellone's spokesman, said there was no effort to put forward a referendum.
But he acknowledged there have been talks about the jail.
"Given the reports and allegations of the stealing of taxpayer dollars by employees in the sheriff 's office, the county executive had had preliminary internal discussions with other elected officials about how to best address the issue," Meyers said, "to assure this abuse can never happen again."
"I've heard the rumors," said Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, a Conservative, adding that Bellone has not talked to him. DeMarco said his department has been "very proactive" in cutting the jail population and recidivism, and dealing with internal problems. DeMarco, who runs with Democratic support, has disciplined two correction officers. One of them is Suffolk Conservative Chairman Edward Walsh, a correction lieutenant, whom sources say DeMarco suspended and moved to fire over allegations he was paid for time he did not work.
DeMarco said Bellone had his own problems with the arrest of his information technology commissioner. "I've been very agressive," he said, "I don't know how aggressive he's been when his employees get into trouble. But you don't see me calling for the abolition of his office."