Paul J. Tonna, of Huntington, a former legislative chief in...

Paul J. Tonna, of Huntington, a former legislative chief in Suffolk County, was elected unanimously by the county's Industrial Development Agency to be its chairman. Credit: Newsday, 2008 / Thomas A. Ferrara

Paul J. Tonna was elected chairman of the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Thursday, minutes after sitting down to his first meeting as a board member.

His ascension was at the behest of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Ostensibly the IDA is independent from the county executive.

Candidates for agency chairmen also aren't generally tapped for the post at their first board meeting.

Tonna succeeds Jim Morgo, who stepped down in May.

Tonna, of Huntington, is a former presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. He now works as a consultant to developers and not-for-profit groups and serves on a dozen other boards.

Tonna's unanimous election as IDA chairman followed Tuesday's contentious vote in the legislature on his board membership. Some lawmakers blasted Bellone for "usurping" their power to select IDA board members.

Some local construction unions tried to delay Tonna's confirmation because of his work for the Heartland mini-city project in Brentwood. Unions have clashed with the developer, Gerald Wolkoff.

Tonna, 54, said Thursday he would not participate in IDA deliberations concerning Wolkoff. He pledged to continue work, begun as a lawmaker, to support unions.

Tonna also expressed reservations about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's push for more state oversight of IDAs: "This seems deleterious to IDAs and ties our hands."

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