Suffolk's countywide elected officials on Tuesday came out strongly against County Executive Steve Bellone's proposal to allow elected officials to be removed in midterm.
District Attorney Thomas Spota, a Democrat, County Clerk Judith Pascale, a Republican, and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, a Conservative, issued a joint statement at a public hearing at the Suffolk County Legislature.
Bellone, a Democrat, has filed a bill that would drop a provision in the county charter that protects elected officials from being removed from office in the middle of their terms.
"We do not believe it is within our rights to abolish an elected office, midterm and after voters have spoken by electing that official to a specific term and for a specific purpose," said the statement.
Bellone says the merger of the treasurer and comptroller's offices would save more than $700,000 a year. But Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, whose job would be axed in the merger, said the county executive's move is aimed at "silencing all dissent" so he can "treat county coffers as a personal ATM card." It was an allusion to a critical state audit of Babylon Town finances when Bellone was supervisor. The New York State comptroller said Monday that town officials violated municipal law with loans totaling nearly $28 million from the town's residential garbage fund that were used to purchase property for revitalization in Wyandanch. The town rejected some of the audit's most stinging findings as incorrect or outdated.Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider dismissed the criticism as partisan, saying Democrats ran on a platform of giving voters a choice on the merger.Carpenter also attacked Bellone's now withdrawn-proposal to ease the county's double-dipping ban for Legis.-elect Monica Martinez so she can work both as a lawmaker and assistant principal, for total salary of $215,000 a year.
Carpenter said she will seek a county attorney opinion on whether it will be legal to pay Martinez her $98,260 legislative salary in light of a double-dipping ban on elected officials. A 2011 county law says that county officials, except teachers in public schools or colleges, cannot collect a salary from another level of government.
"I do not believe it is legal," she said. Martinez has maintained she is not covered by the law and has sought an opinion for the county ethics commission.
Republican Legis. Thomas Cilmi, meanwhile, filed a resolution to further limit the exemption in the current double-dipping law to allow only "part-time" teachers, noting the measure was orignally drafted to allow lawmakers teach as college adjuncts. Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon) said he has "strong reservations" about Bellone's term proposal, but backed a plan to close the hearing and allow a vote at the Dec. 18 legislative meeting.
GOP Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) a frequent Bellone ally, called on the county executive to withdraw his term proposal and allow the treasurer and comptroller merger to take effect in 2018, after Carpenter's new term expires.