Edward Walsh told that Suffolk sheriff's department seeking his termination

Edward Walsh shakes hands with State Sen. Lee

Edward Walsh shakes hands with State Sen. Lee Zeldin at his campaign headquarters in East Moriches, June 24, 2014. (Credit: John Roca)

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco moved Tuesday to fire Edward Walsh from his job as a correction lieutenant.

Departmental charges will be referred to District Attorney Thomas Spota's office for possible criminal prosecution, DeMarco said.

Officials declined to specify the reason for the action, but Newsday has reported that Walsh has been under investigation since February, accused of charging the county for hours that he didn't work.

Walsh, chairman of the Suffolk Conservative Party, met with the sheriff department's internal affairs investigators Tuesday afternoon, and received notice the department was moving to fire him.

"We're seeking termination. We will be reaching out to the district attorney's office to review the case and turn over what we have," DeMarco said.

Walsh will fight the departmental charges, his attorney said. "We deny the charges," said Barry Peek, a partner at Garden City-based Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein.

DeMarco said he's restricted by state law from providing details about the allegations against Walsh. "I can't comment because of the law. It's frustrating that there's a lack of transparency in matters like this," he said. State law prevents the disclosure of information about the performance of law enforcement personnel.

Peek also said he was "not free to comment on what the charges are."

Walsh was suspended without pay for 30 days on June 25, with officials giving no reason.

Under the collective bargaining agreement with the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association, Walsh has 10 days to decide whether to contest the termination in front of a hearing officer selected by the county or go to arbitration. Peek said that they had not decided which route to take.

Correction officers union president Vito Dagnello did not return a call seeking comment.

Walsh, 48, has worked for the sheriff's department for 23 years.

After 25 years of service, he could retire and receive his full pension, according to the state comptroller's office. The full pension would equal half his average annual salary. If Walsh retires or is terminated before the 25-year mark, he would have to wait until he's 62 to get full retirement benefits.

He made $163,044 in base pay and $51,479 in overtime last year, according to county records.

Walsh serves as the liaison to the courts and gang and internal security units at the jail.

State campaign disclosure forms show Walsh was paid more than $62,000 last year as Conservative Party chairman, a post he's held for eight years.

Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, called the controversy involving Walsh "a distraction. But the due process has to work itself out. Ultimately, leaders of the party in Suffolk will have to make the decision going forward."

Michael D. O'Donohoe, a longtime Conservative committeeman and former Suffolk County legislator, said Walsh should "immediately resign" as party leader.

"He'll damage the party," said O'Donohoe, who in the past had stopped short of calling for his resignation.

DeMarco is a Conservative Party member who won office with Walsh's help.

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), chairwoman of the legislature's Public Safety Committee, praised DeMarco for "taking action on behalf of the Suffolk County taxpayers."

But she said state 50a law preventing disclosure of the charges should be amended.

"If it's in any way related to stealing time from Suffolk County taxpayers, there should be some disclosure to taxpayers about what the charges are," Browning said.

Spota's spokesman Robert Clifford did not respond to requests for comment.

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