Suffolk IT commissioner accused of misconduct
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Suffolk County's Information Technology Commissioner Donald Rodgers was arrested and charged Thursday with official misconduct and failing to disclose a company he owned on a county financial disclosure form.
Rodgers, of Centereach, surrendered to prosecutors at the Suffolk County district attorney's office early Thursday before appearing in court. He was later placed on administrative leave without pay indefinitely.
County spokesman Justin Meyers said the county would move to appoint an interim commissioner of the information technology agency. "The department must still be able to function on a daily basis with a commissioner able to give 100 percent of his focus to the department," Meyers said.
Rodgers, 60, is charged with offering a false instrument for filing, an E-class felony, relating to his failure to report ownership of a consulting firm, Red Dog Design Inc., and income the firm generated in 2012 on his county financial disclosure form.
He also is charged with two misdemeanors -- both official misconduct -- in connection with the Bellone administration's bid last year for a multimillion dollar software deal with computer giant Microsoft.
Rodgers did not enter a plea during his brief appearance before Judge Paul Hensley in First District Court in Central Islip. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on June 19.
In the first official misconduct count, prosecutors allege Rodgers lied to the Suffolk legislature when giving testimony regarding a Microsoft/Dell enterprise agreement last June.
According to prosecutor Chris McPartland, chief of investigations at the Suffolk County district attorney's office, Rodgers had signed a 17-page enterprise agreement with Microsoft on March 28 that resulted in a $1.45 million invoice being sent to the county from Dell Corp. on April 22 -- though it was "not budgeted or funded."
The county has said Rodgers' statements to the legislature are fine because of a letter of intent signed March 29 in which Rodgers wrote Dell that while the county intended to make an agreement, that pact was subject to approvals from the legislature, bond counsel and IT steering committee.
No money was paid out on the invoice, Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider has said.
In the second official misconduct charge, Rodgers is alleged to have directed an employee of the IT department, Thomas Perino, to generate a fake requisition number in a draft of the letter of intent sent to Dell.
"We believe Donald testified truthfully before the legislature and in fact there was no binding agreement without the three levels of county approval," said Rodgers' attorney Alan Abramson, adding: "We intend to vigorously contest these charges in court."
Lawyer: Company known
Abramson said county officials were well aware of the testimony Rodgers would give before he did so on June 18, as well as his ownership of Red Dog Design, a one-person corporation. "From the time he started working for the county, Red Dog conducted no business with the county or anyone else," Abramson said.
Last spring, when the proposed Microsoft deal was being hotly debated, some county legislators raised doubts over whether the project was needed at all after a highly critical report from the independent Budget Review Office in May concluded the project should be omitted from last year's program altogether. "When asked what the downside to the department would be if this project was not implemented, the [IT] commissioner answered that there would be none and that everything would remain in place for another year," the report said.
Shortly before legislators were to vote -- toward the end of more than an hour's questioning by them -- Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, sought reassurance no agreements had been entered into on behalf of the county.
According to a transcript of the meeting, Kennedy asked: "Has anybody in the administration signed anything with Microsoft reflecting that we're bound, committed, obligated, or going to go through with this?"
"No," said Rodgers.
According to court documents, Perino, an IT budget analyst who had worked at the county six years, was the sole employee in the office approaching 5 p.m. on Good Friday last year -- March 29.
'Committed on paper'
Rodgers approached Perino saying he wanted to get the Microsoft enterprise agreement "committed on paper" and asked Perino to explain the acquisition process to get approval within the county's accounting system, the court documents state.
Perino told investigators: "I explained to him that to get a requisition number from the system, the money has to have been approved in the budget and that it was not in the budget and had not been approved."
Rodgers then asked Perino "to make up a temporary number," saying he just needed "any number" for the letter of intent, according to the court papers.
"He assured me that if the money was never approved, it would not go into the IFMS system" -- the county's financial information management system.
According to court papers, Perino said he was "very uncomfortable" to be asked to produce the fake number. "I felt very pressured by him, he is the commissioner and top guy and when he asked me to do something I felt that I had no choice."
Speaking after the court appearance, Kennedy said he felt sure Rodgers was not acting alone. "To go so far as to direct an employee to intentionally create a fictitious [requisition number] is not something typically done by someone without knowledge or pressure from someone up the line," he said.
"I look forward to a thorough investigation on the part of the DA and we -- the Republican caucus -- fully intend to pursue it."
If convicted, Rodgers could face a maximum of four years in prison on the felony charge and up to one year in jail on each misdemeanor.