The administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has named the Long Island Rail Road's former chief of information technology as the new county computer czar to replace ex-commissioner Donald Rodgers, who was forced out last summer in a criminal plea deal.
Taking the $150,000-a-year post is Vincent Mezzanotte, 56, of West Islip, who retired in 2010 after 30 years with the LIRR. He held a similar position with Metro-North Railroad and for the past year was a senior MTA strategic planner.
Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers called Mezzanotte a "lucky find." The county received "dozens and dozens" of applications in a nationwide search, Meyers said. But after interviewing 14 of them, county officials found that salary was a "sticking point" because the private sector pays from $250,000 to $750,000 for such posts.StoryEx-IT commish avoids jail time on 2 chargesStorySuffolk bill would expand lobbying rulesStoryIT commissioner accused of misconduct
"He's an absolute bargain," said Meyers. "Finding someone who has the skill set, the experience and willingness to do the job at a salary the government pays is a very difficult task."Deputy Commissioner Douglas Miller, who has served as acting commissioner, did not apply for the job and will remain in his current post.
Mezzanotte also will continue to collect his $112,000 railroad pension. Meyers said Mezzanotte will not need a state waiver to double dip because the Long Island Rail Road pension system is separate from the state pension system to which county employees belong.
The county IT job has been vacant since August when Rodgers resigned as part of a deal with the Suffolk County district attorney to avoid jail time.
He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: failing to disclose ownership of a computer consulting company and income he earned from it, and official misconduct for pressing an aide to create a fake requisition number in a letter of intent on a $5 million contract.
Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the GOP caucus leader, said he knew nothing about Mezzanotte but expects close scrutiny, given Rodgers' past problems.
"I expect we'll know a lot more about him by the time he takes the job," McCaffrey said. "I hope he turns out better than the last Bellone appointment."
Mezzanotte said he was "extremely excited" about the post because it will allow him to apply his abilities in the technology arena, where he has spent his career, for his home county.
"It seems like a perfect match for me, because I am very accustomed to deploying and applying technology solutions," Mezzanotte said, adding he was generally aware of the past problems in the department. He noted that he has long experience with "procurement policies and processes, and my record speaks for itself that I have stayed within the boundaries."
Mezzanotte, a Republican, said he has never been involved in politics and learned about the job opening from the county website.
A resolution to confirm Mezzanotte's appointment will be filed with the county legislature Tuesday. The measure will go through committee and could be acted on by the March 24 legislative meeting.