New Suffolk lawmaker backtracks on retirement date

Incoming Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta has backtracked

Incoming Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta has backtracked from his plan to retire as a county police detective one day after the New Year -- a move that would have allowed him to increase his vacation time payout by several thousand dollars. (July 3, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

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Incoming Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta has backtracked from his plan to retire as a county police detective one day after the New Year -- a move that would have allowed him to increase his vacation time payout by at least $7,000.

Trotta, a Republican, had gotten approval last week from the county ethics board to formally retire from the police department at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 2, even though the county charter states that legislative terms begin on Jan. 1, and that elected officials can't simultaneously hold other public posts.

Trotta argued that by taking his oath of office at the legislature's first meeting of the year on Jan. 2, he was retiring before beginning his term. By doing so, he would have been able to collect vacation time that would accrue as of Jan. 1, and could be cashed out at retirement.

But after Trotta's plans were made public Sunday, he reconsidered, and he said Monday that he'd retire on Dec. 28.

"To accept a payout for this time would run contrary to the campaign pledge I made to reform county government," Trotta said in a statement.

Trotta, 52, of Kings Park, is a 25-year police veteran, and his retirement payout -- standard for all sworn personnel -- will total more than $200,000 in unused sick and vacation time, officials said. Officers routinely retire on Jan. 2 of each year to accrue that year's new benefits.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr., minority leader, praised Trotta's decision, saying that even if the ethics board blessed his retirement date, the public may not have viewed it well.

"It's always good for legislators to get off on the right foot, and I don't know if this would have been necessarily perceived as such," Kennedy said.Republicans have assailed incoming Legis. Monica Martinez, a Democrat, for trying to keep her vice principal's job at a Brentwood school while at the same time collecting a legislative salary. The county ethics board ruled last week that doing both would violate Suffolk's law against dual public salaries -- $117,000 and $98,260, respectively -- prompting Martinez to say she'll seek a leave from her school post.

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