The Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Tuesday hired a political consultant and fundraiser for its top staff job, opting not to interview other candidates with more business experience.
Anthony Manetta, a former vice chairman of the Suffolk County Independence Party, will Wednesday assume the duties of executive director and chief executive of the development agency. His annual salary is about $134,500.
Manetta's hiring sparked controversy because his champion, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, orchestrated last month's resignation of veteran executive director Bruce E. Ferguson, effective Aug. 31. Bellone does not control the agency.
The IDA's board of directors waited several days to interview Manetta, 32, though he attended the May 17 meeting where Ferguson, 65, stepped down. After Manetta was interviewed, the board sought more applicants and eventually considered seven. No additional job interviews occurred before Tuesday's unanimous vote after a two-hour private meeting.
Board vice chairman David Rosenberg said the board was impressed by Manetta's marketing experience and hopes he will raise the IDA's profile in the business community. Hiring someone with economic development experience, Rosenberg said, "would have created a redundancy" because of the finance skills of IDA deputy executive director Anthony J. Catapano, who received a raise Tuesday.
The agency offers tax incentives and other aid to companies and not-for-profit groups in return for new jobs and investment in buildings and equipment.
Asked why only Manetta was interviewed, Rosenberg said, "We were comfortable with the fact that Mr. Manetta brings a different perspective to the agency and that working with the existing staff . . . it's almost a complementary situation."
Later, Manetta said he would cease all involvement in politics. He also promised aggressive outreach to local companies, a robust website and continued cooperation with other economic development agencies, in particular, Bellone's economic development commissioner Joanne Minieri.
Bellone said, "I applaud the IDA board for recognizing that we need new leaders with fresh ideas to reverse the trend of other states poaching Suffolk County jobs. Suffolk County needs leaders working together on a comprehensive approach to create and retain jobs."
The board still must appoint a chairman because Jim Morgo resigned May 17. He declined to comment last night.