Republican Robert Trotta will take the oath of office as a newly elected Suffolk legislator on Jan. 2, which will allow him to collect $7,000 in vacation time as a police detective before retiring from the department -- a move that has been blessed by the new county board of ethics.
Although the county charter states that a county legislator's two-year term "shall begin on the first day of January following the general election," the board of ethics ruled Wednesday that Trotta can retire as a police detective as of Jan. 2 and not be in violation of the county's double-dipping ban for elected officials.
"There can be no incomparability of positions or a violation of . . . [the ban] until a new legislator accepts the legislative position either by . . . performance of official legislative duties or by taking the oath of office," according to a certified letter from the board that Trotta received Friday.
Cashing out $7,000
As a police detective, Trotta said he accrues 15 days of vacation time as of Jan. 1, which he said is worth about $7,000 and can be cashed out when an officer retires. He said retiring police officers routinely wait until Jan. 2 to exit.
Trotta, 52, who had been scheduled to retire from the police department on Dec. 28, changed his retirement date to Jan. 2. Trotta said he will retire at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 2 and take his oath of office later in the day at the county legislature's organizational meeting in Hauppauge.
Trotta's decision comes after he campaigned as a "political candidate who is only asking for your support so he can eliminate the waste and mismanagement" from county government.He justified the delay, saying, "The essence of the [double dipping] law is that someone should not be doing two jobs" on an ongoing basis. "Clearly, that is not the case here because the first day is a holiday," he said.
During his 25-year career, Trotta said he has worked more than 100 days for which he did not get paid. He also said his work as an investigator has brought in millions of dollars in revenue over nonpayment of cigarette taxes and recoveries from drug deals. "I'm one of the few people who hasn't cost taxpayers a penny," he said. He said he will use the money for his children's college bills.
'Strange glitch' in law
Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said: "It sounds like a strange glitch in the law. However, if he has gone to the ethics board and they have sanctified it, so be it. On the other hand, he is going to have to face his constituents about his actions."
Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), minority leader, said: "He is not reaching for something other than the bundle of benefits he is entitled to as a police officer in Suffolk County." Kennedy added: "More importantly, he is retiring from the department to comply with the no double-dipping law."