Suffolk County Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on May 20,...

Suffolk County Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on May 20, 2015. Credit: James Escher / James Escher

Robert Fonti, who for years has been a major fundraiser for Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and emceed his events, has landed a new $83,598-a-year job as an aide at the Suffolk County Legislature.

Fonti is not alone. Ray Donnelly, Brookhaven’s former top economic development official, is joining Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory’s staff this week at a salary of $76,421 a year.

Gregory (D-Amityville) said the hirings are part of a new effort by the legislature to reach out to small businesses on a district-by-district basis. “We’re all of the same mindset to help the business community,” he said.

Some Republicans are questioning whether Gregory, who is running for Congress against Republican Rep. Peter King, is enlisting Donnelly and Fonti to help in fundraising for his campaign. As of Jan. 1, Gregory had raised $132,549 and spent $83,666, leaving $48,883 on hand. King has $2.94 million. The next fundraising report is due in mid-April.

“Bob has raised a lot of money for Frank Petrone over the years,” said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican chairwoman. “Maybe he’ll be doing the same for Gregory.”

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he doubted Gregory’s plans for an economic development initiative, saying “I haven’t’ heard anything about it . . . It appears to me he’s hiring campaign fundraising staff at taxpayer expense.”

Fonti, 55, a Cold Spring Harbor Democrat who started with the legislature two weeks ago, is filling a vacancy left by Marge Acevedo, the Riverhead Democratic leader, who retired as an aide late last year.

Fonti touted his credentials as co-founder of the Long Island Business Council and the Suffolk Alliance of Chambers, a coalition of chambers of commerce. “I have a lot of good things to bring to the table — it’s the person, not politics,” he said.

Fonti was embroiled in a 2014 controversy in Huntington after Democratic town board member Mark Cuthbertson did legal work on properties for which Fonti was the court-appointed property manager. Cuthbertson later voted on Fonti’s contract with the town, under which Fonti earned up to $62,400 a year for consulting on real estate issues.

While the town ethics board found no “technical ethical violation” by Cuthbertson, it urged him to disclose such relationships in the future. Fonti’s town contract ran out at the end of 2014, although he remains the unpaid chairman of the Huntington Housing Authority.

Donnelly will fill a vacancy left by the exit of Katie Baker as a legislative public relations aide. In recent years, Donnelly, 64, of Coram, has worked in the state office that deals with superstorm Sandy relief. Donnelly did not return calls for comment.

Gregory said he already has a “professional fundraising staff” for his congressional campaign, and initially said neither Fonti nor Donnelly have done any fundraising for him. However, he later acknowledged that Donnelly co-hosted an event for him last summer at the Oar Restaurant in Patchogue that raised about $5,000.

Asked if he would enlist Fonti or Donnelly to do fundraising in their off hours from the legislature, Gregory said, “We’ll have to evaluate that.”

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