A former senior Bellone administration official pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanors, avoiding jail time after agreeing to resign his $150,000-a-year job.
Donald Rodgers, 60, Suffolk County's information technology commissioner until he resigned Monday, was convicted and sentenced in First District Court in Central Islip to a one-year conditional discharge.
Judge Jennifer Henry warned Rodgers he could face a year in jail if arrested during that time.
Rodgers, of Centereach, had faced an E felony of first-degree filing a false instrument, which carries a maximum prison term of up to 4 years, when he was accused of failing to reveal on his county financial disclosure form his ownership of a computing consultant company, Red Dog Design -- and income he derived from it at the start of 2012. He pleaded guilty to second-degree filing a false instrument -- a misdemeanor.
Rodgers' attorney, Alan Abramson, stressed in court that any earnings Rodgers made from the firm predated the commencement of his county employment in April 2012.
"He made mistakes and today he took responsibility for the errors he made," Abramson said later. "But let me be clear, there was never any personal gain for Donald, nor did Suffolk County incur any financial loss."
After his hiring, Rodgers and his boss, Deputy County Executive Thomas Melito, spearheaded efforts to convince legislators to back a controversial agreement with Microsoft and its partner Dell -- a deal that would have committed the county to a five-year, almost $5 million contract even as a senior staffer in the Budget Review Office had argued it was unnecessary.
County Executive Steve Bellone's administration planned to bond to fund the deal over an 18-year period, which would have cost taxpayers more with added interest. But the bid foundered when county lawmakers didn't approve that funding.
Still, Rodgers, who told detectives he was under pressure to strike such an agreement, court records show, went ahead of budgetary approval, signing a letter of intent and pressing a subordinate, IT analyst Thomas Perino, to generate a fake requisition number.
That action, as Perino worked, the sole employee in the office late on a Good Friday, resulted in Rodgers' second misdemeanor, official misconduct.
Speaking outside court, prosecutor Christopher McPartland said, "There are procurement rules and processes in place to protect the county and ultimately employees should not be pressured into evading them."
Asked whether Rodgers had been under pressure from an aggressive sales executive representing the Microsoft and Dell companies, or from the county executive's office, McPartland replied: "Probably both." He declined to say whether the investigation by the district attorney's office had concluded with Rodgers' sentencing. "I don't want to comment beyond today's court proceedings," he said.
In testimony before the county legislature, Rodgers told Minority Leader Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) no agreement had been signed. In fact, a letter of intent Rodgers signed resulted in a $1.45 million invoice being sent to the county April 22. Prosecutors initially charged Rodgers with a second official misconduct charge, saying that he lied to the legislature, but that count was dropped as part of the deal.
Rodgers later canceled the agreement and none of the $1.45 million amount was paid.
Tuesday, spokesman Justin Meyers said the county remains in separate talks to determine a final dollar amount to cover the county's use of Microsoft's software. "Today's plea is consistent with our findings that the personal mistakes Mr. Rodgers admitted to had no financial impact to the county," he said in a statement that did not address McPartland's comments.
Kennedy told Newsday to date this year the IT department had spent $186,000 to meet costs associated with Microsoft compliance. While more such spending was likely, "We're much better off with a few hundred thousand dollars in expenses than the multimillion-dollar amount this administration had argued was needed," he said. Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), a critic of the way the Microsoft deal was handled, said Rodgers' conviction "reinforces county rules." It showed "procurement can't proceed without legislative approval when government works properly."