The Suffolk Legislature's minority leader has proposed axing former Brookhaven Town board member Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld as a $97,000-a-year assistant county attorney so the county can hire human rights commission investigators.
Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said his proposed budget amendment is aimed at helping the perennially short-handed commission. He also expressed concern about Fiore-Rosenfeld's hiring in light of an election probe by the district attorney last year and a lawsuit filed against Fiore-Rosenfeld last month by a former aide.
District Attorney Thomas Spota's office seized three computers from Fiore-Rosenfeld's town office, and the Democrat later decided not to seek re-election. Just before Fiore-Rosenfeld got his county patronage post last month, former town aide Jocelyn Rush sued him, claiming he harassed her and pressed her to do political work in her off-hours.
"I'm concerned we have an attorney who was brought on staff after leaving the town under questionable circumstances and is facing serious ongoing litigation," Kennedy said.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider called Kennedy's measure "nonsensical" and predicted it will have little legislative support. Schneider said county attorney staff have been cut to 53 from 66, but County Executive Steve Bellone would be open to talking about boosting the number of investigators by cutting elsewhere.
"Using the budget process to take a rifle shot at someone is the kind of partisanship that has no place here," Schneider said.
Edward Yule, Fiore-Rosenfeld's attorney, said the allegations against his client have no merit. "It appears to be another political arrow . . . shot with no basis in fact by someone who knows nothing about the case," he said.
Kennedy's bill estimates about $81,000 in savings this year because the measure could not be adopted before late March. Kennedy said the funds could be used to hire per diem or part-time human rights investigators to help existing staff. The commission investigates discrimination complaints.
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he had not seen Kennedy's bill but added, "If there is a need for human rights investigators, I think we could find another offset to pay for it."
Rabbi Stephen Moss, commission chairman, said the agency long has been short-staffed with two investigators, even though the budget includes four positions. The commission's 2012 report states the agency received 2,526 calls for help, opened 162 cases and closed 147."We're working with the name number of investigators as 22 years ago when I started," Moss said. "No question we could use more investigators, but how to do it is up to other levels of government."