Suffolk Ethics panel probe eyes director

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In an expansion of its probe into the county Ethics Commission, the Suffolk district attorney's office Wednesday subpoenaed the time sheets of Alfred Lama, the commission's executive director, sources said.

The district attorney's office declined to comment, but Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said an audit by his office had uncovered questions about Lama's hours at the commission.

Under the county contract, only employees working more than half time -- defined as more than half of a 35-hour workweek -- are entitled to county health insurance. Last year, according to the auditors, Lama worked less than half time, but still received health insurance.

Lama did not return a call for comment. Nor did County Attorney Christine Malafi, who signs his time sheets. Dan Aug, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Lama, 78, has served as commission director since December 2004. Records obtained by Newsday through Freedom of Information requests show he has not worked full time since 2005 and has an arbitration business. Officials in the Levy administration have repeatedly declined to comment on whether Lama was asked to give up his work.

"Red flags are raised when an executive director of the Ethics Commission has worked as little as he did and is kept on for full-time health benefits at taxpayers' expense," Sawicki said. "There's something inherently wrong in that entire arrangement."

Sawicki said his auditors are working with the district attorney. On Monday, the district attorney's office requested records and security video from the special legislative committee investigating the commission.

As a retired Supreme Court justice, Lama collects an annual pension of $68,071 plus Social Security and is entitled to state health benefits. As commission director, he collects a salary of $81,077 and family health insurance at no cost, records show.

Levy, in his February 2004 State of the County address, said he would hire a full-time ethics director. Lama is listed as full time, but his pay is docked to reflect his reduced hours. If he were listed as an employee working less than half time, he would not be entitled to health insurance, Sawicki said.

Sawicki said he thought Lama was the only county employee with such an arrangement. "I'm not going to sit back and let taxpayers pay for this kind of arrangement," he said.

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