ALBANY -- Regina Calcaterra said Monday that she will soon resign as Suffolk County deputy executive to stay on as director of a state panel investigating utility companies.

Calcaterra had taken a leave of absence until Jan. 15 as chief deputy to County Executive Steve Bellone to run the Moreland Commission, empaneled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to review utilities' performance during and after superstorm Sandy. She said she will resign her county job to remain with the commission, which will run through at least the spring.

"It's important that I stay on this," she said Monday, after the panel presented its preliminary recommendations -- chiefly, to privatize the Long Island Power Authority after its dismal performance. She added she "enjoyed working with" Bellone.

County sources said last month that Calcaterra had a run-in with federal emergency officials about the location of a FEMA center as she led Suffolk's superstorm Sandy response. Bellone recently denied that her appointment to the commission was used as cover to push her out of her job due to complaints about her management style.

Bellone said last week: "I couldn't be happier with what she's done here."

Monday, Bellone issued a statement saying in part: "I will always be grateful to Regina Calcaterra for helping guide my administration through a difficult first year, including coping with the worst fiscal crisis in Suffolk County's history. While I will miss working with Regina on a day-to-day basis, I am pleased that she is working on behalf of all New Yorkers to improve our utility companies."

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As Bellone's chief deputy, Calcaterra led Suffolk's effort to gain state approval to open its own traffic violations bureau and install more red-light cameras. She also largely put together the pending $23-million sale of the county's John J. Foley nursing home in Yaphank.

County Attorney Dennis Cohen, Bellone's longtime confidant from Babylon, had replaced Calcaterra on an interim basis and will continue to serve as the deputy county executive.

With Paul LaRocco