Suffolk Conservative Party secretary Michael E. Torres was fired suddenly Friday morning from his county elections board position after his party made a deal with Democrats last month to endorse two Democrats for judgeships rather than candidates chosen by the GOP, a Conservative Party leader said.
Michael O'Donohoe, a longtime Conservative committeeman out of Huntington Town, said Torres, a senior assistant commissioner, was fired at 10 a.m. Friday, along with Republican Bill Ellis, the Smithtown GOP chairman who was the deputy commissioner.
"I think it's the second shots of a major war between the Conservatives and the Republicans," O'Donohoe said. "When Conservatives start endorsing Democrats . . . [the GOP leaders] get upset . . . LaValle is responding back with knocking out whatever patronage he can knock out from the Conservatives -- make them pay a dear price for whatever they got with these judgeships."
Sources also said complaints against the two for misconduct, sometimes in the form of politically bullying other elections employees while on the job, also led to the firings.
The two high-ranking officials were hired within months of each other in 2007. Ellis earned $120,196 in 2014, the last available data show, while Torres, who was the highest-ranking minority party elections employee in Suffolk history, made $105,378.
Earlier this week, Suffolk Conservatives cross-endorsed Democratic state Supreme Court justice candidates William Ford, an Islip District Court judge, and Robert Quinlan, a former Brookhaven and Islip Town attorney, after the Democrats chose Conservative Howard Heckman as their candidate last week. This deal eliminates the possibility of any GOP candidates running for those slots of getting a Conservative endorsement in the November election, despite Conservatives promising in May they would back Republican Supreme Court nominees, LaValle has said.
The Board of Elections declined to comment. Ellis, Torres, his criminal defense attorney William Keahon and LaValle did not return requests for comment.
County GOP chairman at the time Torres was hired, Harry Withers has told Newsday the GOP-designated job was given to Torres at the behest of Ed Walsh, who flaunted the GOP-Conservative alliance at the time and the votes the Conservative Party would deliver to win elections.
The positions at the board of elections are not civil service jobs but at-will, and firings can be done without cause, a source said.
An embattled Torres is otherwise facing two legal matters, including a criminal felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing for allegedly concealing criminal convictions on an application for a seat on the Islip Town Board of Assessment Review. He is accused of checking the "no" box when asked if he had ever been convicted of "any crime" -- either a felony or misdemeanor, despite having two misdemeanor convictions on his record, including for gambling in 1997 and driving without a valid license in 2002. He has pleaded not guilty in the felony case.
In late May, Torres, 42, resigned from that board seat and his Conservative Party leadership post in Islip Town, after moving from East Islip to Eastport.
He also is one of the defendants named in a $41 million federal lawsuit filed earlier this year by Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, former prominent political donors in the Town of Islip. The Datres allege Torres, along with other town and party officials, conspired to pin a dumping scandal on them in order to escape criminal charges.
With Rick Brand