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Steve Bellone criticized by ex-Suffolk planning commissioner

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone looks on during

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone looks on during a news conference in Smithtown, Friday, May 13, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

Barbara Roberts, who resigned in protest at the last meeting of the Suffolk Planning Commission last year, made her departure official with a scathing letter criticizing County Executive Steve Bellone for interfering in board deliberations.

Roberts’ resignation came after the commission reversed an earlier decision to recommend against the Tuckahoe Center project, a shopping center anchored by a supermarket on traffic-snarled County Road 39.

In her Dec. 31 letter, the Sag Harbor commission member said the commission had become “a blind puppet for the wishes of the County Executive and real estate developers.”

Noting that legislation creating the commission called for it to be “independent of the county executive,” Roberts called it “extremely disturbing to know that the commission meetings have been broadcast into the executive’s office and that members have received texts from outside the hearing room telling them how to vote.”

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider called Roberts’ statements “absurd,” but said the commission deals with issues that concern the county executive.

“We are certainly aware of what’s going on and express our opinion,” Schneider said. “The commission is clearly independent but it does not mean it is unaccountable.”

The commission has 15 members who are nominated by the county executive and confirmed by the county legislature.

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