Suffolk moves to fund hate crimes advocate post

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On the day jury selection for the trial of the man accused of killing Marcelo Lucero begins, Suffolk lawmakers are poised to fund a position for a countywide hate crime victims' advocate.

Legislators are expected to vote Tuesday to approve at least $41,000 for the Crime Victims Center, which began training a bilingual advocate in October.

Laura Ahern, the center's executive director, said she has already secured $45,000 in grants from the federal and state governments for the advocacy program. She has asked the county for $45,000 more.

Ahern said the advocate will conduct outreach to "protected classes" and help hate crime victims work with law enforcement. Also, if necessary, victims could seek reimbursement for hospital bills from the New York State Crime Victims Board, she said.

"We have individuals who have hospital bills and they don't know they can go to a specialist and we will work it out with a medical provider," Ahern said. "Never is the documentation status questioned."

Legislators have so far pledged $20,500 for the program from their discretionary community support initiative funds, said Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford), one of the bill's sponsors. Eddington said he is seeking another $2,000. Legislators have $35,000 each at their discretion.

Dan Aug, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy, said Levy agreed to match legislative contributions up to $22,500 from funds previously budgeted for consultants.

The county's 2010 budget allocated Levy $60,000 for discretionary fees-for-services and consultants, Aug said.

"We all agreed it's a good thing," Eddington said. "It's just in these tough economic times, how do we do it?"

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