The one-time second-highest ranking county official in Suffolk took the stand on Patricia Dillon's behalf Monday, saying he advised the veteran physician to document what she considered abuses on inmates at the Suffolk jail when she brought them to his attention in Sept. 2007.

"I couldn't ignore it," former Chief Deputy Suffolk County Executive Paul Sabatino testified before a jury in U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt's courtroom in Central Islip. "I told her to start the process. If the inmates were being abused, they would be protected."

Sabatino, who served Suffolk in several capacities, including counsel to the legislature, testified that he left the chief deputy post in December 2007 "on bad terms" with then-County Executive Steve Levy.

Levy aides had launched an ethics violation probe against Sabatino, who is now an attorney in private practice -- partly because Sabatino had served as a character witness for Dillon in a prior venue.

Sabatino, who called Dillon a colleague and friend, was cleared of all charges.

He testified while under cross-examination Monday by Megan O'Donnell, who is defending Suffolk County, former county commissioner of health Humayun Chaudhry and Vincent Geraci, medical programs administrator at the jail, against Dillon's lawsuit.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Dillon is the former Suffolk acting director of public health who claims that she was fired from a lesser post in February 2009, because she inquired about medical treatment of inmates at the Suffolk jail. She was abruptly transferred there by Chaudhry in September 2007 after serving as a public health administrator since late 2001.

Her lawsuit, filed in November 2007 after she was suspended, claims she was targeted for raising the abuse issue to her superiors, including Chaudhry and Geraci, and then for refusing to turn over copies of records she made to document inmate injuries that received, she said, substandard medical care and denial of prescription medication.

Dillon, who was transferred to the Suffolk jail's medical unit in Sept. 4, 2007, and was suspended on Sept. 13, 2007, after she declined to return photocopies of the inmate medical records, also methodically documented her interactions with co-workers.

She testified under cross-examination that she made recordings without people's knowledge and had even lied to her supervisors and union attorney when asked direct questions.

On direct examination by her attorney, David Feather of Garden City, though, Dillon said she needed accurate documentation of her statements because she had been falsely accused of making certain statements.