Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh is returning to the county sheriff's payroll as he fights his firing as a correction lieutenant, his attorney said yesterday.
Walsh, who was suspended without pay for 30 days on June 25, has decided to contest his termination by Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in front of a hearing officer chosen by the county, said Barry Peek, a Garden City attorney representing Walsh.
Under county civil service rules, Walsh can continue to be paid during that process. Had Walsh chosen to have his case heard by an arbitrator agreed to by Walsh and the county, he could have lost his civil service protections and remained indefinitely suspended without pay.
"This allows a little more flexibility," Peek said, noting that having the county choose the hearing officer makes it easier for Walsh to appeal a decision against him, because a mutually chosen arbitrator's decision is binding.
DeMarco, a Conservative Party member, moved to fire Walsh on July 15 and filed departmental charges against him. The sheriff has declined to specify the reason for the action, but Newsday has reported that Walsh had been under investigation since February, accused of charging the county for hours that he didn't work.
Walsh, 48, has worked for the sheriff's department for 23 years, and made $163,044 in base pay and $51,479 in overtime last year. He has served as liaison to the jail's courts, gang and internal security units.
Walsh's suspension officially ended yesterday, but as of late afternoon, sheriff's chief Michael Sharkey said the department had not been notified of the process Walsh had chosen to fight his termination.
Walsh has until late Monday to notify the county of his intentions, Sharkey said. His assignment upon his return to work has yet to be determined.
"Obviously, it will have to be appropriate based on the ongoing case," Sharkey said.
Peek said it probably will be months before a decision is reached. "We intend to defend this case vigorously," he said.
DeMarco has said he would refer the departmental charges against Walsh to District Attorney Thomas Spota's office for possible criminal prosecution. But DA's spokesman Robert Clifford said Friday that the sheriff has canceled three scheduled meetings with the office over the past two weeks.
"To date, we have not received any departmental charges, or information, regarding a case or a Sheriff's investigation," Clifford said in an email.
DeMarco said last night that his office had not canceled three scheduled meetings. He said though his staff was not able to make one suggested date, they had proposed another one.
"It's just not true," DeMarco said of Clifford's claim.