The office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli ruled Wednesday that Edward Webber was working as Suffolk's police commissioner when he officially retired last month, not the higher-paying $212,000-a-year job as chief of support services -- a ruling that could affect his pension and exit pay.

The comptroller's office made the ruling even though County Executive Steve Bellone last month sent out letters in a last-ditch effort to help Webber, stating the appointment as commissioner was to begin Oct. 9, so he could officially retire in the higher-paid post.

That letter was issued after Webber learned that he could not retire retroactively from his chief's job after taking over as commissioner.

But Kevin F. Murray, executive deputy comptroller, in a letter to County Attorney Dennis Cohen wrote: "The documentation you provided clearly indicates that Mr. Webber's appointment as police commissioner was effective Aug. 24."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the ruling "finally clarifies" the job Webber retired from, but he maintains that Bellone's letter in effect reappointed him and he will not have to undergo a new confirmation process before the county legislature.

"He was, is, and remains the police commissioner," he said.

Webber did not return calls to his office.

Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki had already lowered Webber's pay from chief to commissioner as of Aug. 24 as a result of the controversy. "We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing . . . for the taxpayer and now that we have the ultimate ruling, we are all on the same page," he said.

Sawicki pressed the Bellone administration to seek DiNapoli's opinion after a Newsday check of records showed the legislature's Aug. 21 resolution appointing Webber was "effective on approval." Webber signed an oath of office for a term beginning Aug. 24 with the county clerk on Sept. 5.

In his ruling, Murray also said that on or about Aug. 24, Webber "began issuing news releases under the title police commissioner. These factors clearly convey that Mr. Webber began service as police commissioner on Aug 24."

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Officials could not say what impact the decision could have on Webber's pension or his exit pay for unused sick and vacation time.