Suffolk DA seeks records in ethics probe

Suffolk Executive Steve Levy, left, and District Attorney

Suffolk Executive Steve Levy, left, and District Attorney Thomas Spota in 2010. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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In the first signal that it's investigating the county Ethics Commission, the Suffolk district attorney's office Monday requested records and security video related to meetings of the special legislative committee set up to probe the commission.

Meanwhile, the county legislature's presiding officer, William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), said District Attorney Thomas Spota asked him to suspend the committee's work pending the completion of a "criminal investigation."

In a statement, Spota's office said: "The special committee to investigate the Suffolk County Ethics Commission has agreed to suspend its hearings pending this office's review of matters relating to the Ethics Commission."

On Thursday, County Executive Steve Levy announced he would not seek a third term and that he would turn over his entire $4.1 million campaign fund to prosecutors. Without providing specifics, Spota said Levy's action resolved an investigation conducted by his office's Government Corruption Bureau. He said the inquiry into Levy was completed, but that an investigation into the conduct of others was continuing.

Levy spokesman Dan Aug declined to comment Monday. Calls to the Ethics Commission's offices were not returned.

Lindsay established the special committee in June after Newsday reported Levy had filed a less extensive state financial disclosure form, rather than the county form required of roughly 650 county employees each year. Lindsay said at the time that he was concerned about the independence of the Ethics Commission, which reviews financial disclosure forms.

The district attorney's letter asked for all records related to the establishment and funding of the committee, all written submissions in support or opposition to the committee, and all security video for the legislative meetings of Aug. 3 and Aug. 17, 2010. There was no explanation as to why prosecutors wanted the video.

Legislative Clerk Timothy Laube said he would provide the records, but that there are no security cameras in legislative buildings.

Last Aug. 17, legislators voted to hire former federal prosecutor Joseph Conway to lead the committee's review. At the Aug. 3 meeting, Craig Tortora, one of the three ethics commissioners, said the commissioners were "outraged that our personal integrity has been publicly questioned without one shred of factual proof that any impropriety has taken place."

The committee's work then stalled after a prolonged court battle over commission records. In January, a judge ruled the committee had the right to subpoena records, and the commission provided them. Lindsay said he had planned to resume hearings, but that he would honor the DA's request.

In a statement issued late Monday, Lindsay said, "This does not mean our work is complete. We fully intend to rewrite the statute to increase transparency and prevent future conflicts."

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