In a highly unusual move, the administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone last week placed newspaper want ads for a new deputy police commissioner even though Bellone announced his choice for the job three months ago.
Making the ads even odder is the fact that they appeared only in the county’s official weekly papers, the Smithtown News and the Smithtown Messenger, which circulate in the smallest of Suffolk’s five western towns. It doesn’t even amount to a countywide search, much less a national search for the top-level position.
The ads were required as part of the process to obtain what is known as a 211 waiver from the state civil service department. The waiver permits local municipalities to hire employees who are under age 65 who already receive a state pension — allowing them to legally double dip and collect a full salary in a state or local government job.
Under state law, waivers can be granted only when there is “an urgent need . . . as the result of an unplanned, unpredictable, and unexpected vacancy where sufficient time is not available to recruit a qualified individual.” The law limits waivers to two years.
Bellone and his new police commissioner, Tim Sini, a former federal prosecutor, want to hire John Barry, who served as the lead federal investigator in last year’s successful prosecution of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges.
The waiver would allow Barry, 46, to collect his $86,000-a-year pension from his 20-year stint with the NYPD, and his $150,000 deputy commissioner’s salary. He currently collects his city pension and a $144,000 federal salary. Without a waiver, Barry could only make $30,000 a year in county pay.
“John Barry is the best federal investigator in the country and to recruit him we needed to seek a waiver to match his salary in the U.S. attorney’s office,” said Justin Meyers, Bellone’s spokesman. Meyers called Barry “uniquely qualified,” adding, “He’s not just a home run for the police department but a grand slam, and we are lucky to have him.”
The newspaper ads say candidates need “10 years of diverse experience in local law enforcement and five additional years of experience working for or in cooperation with a federal law enforcement agency,” along with “specialized expertise in investigations into drug operations, anti-terrorism and public corruption offenses.”
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a retired Suffolk County police detective, said the ad seeks a deputy with more experience than Sini.
“It looks like I fit the qualification so I’m thinking of applying,” Trotta quipped. “What dumbfounds me is that we didn’t do a search for the commissioner, yet they are now doing a search for the deputy?”
Robert Creighton, 78, a Republican Smithtown Town Board member and a former Suffolk police commissioner, said, “It looks like a charade, so under the circumstances I’ll take a pass.”
He suggested that Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, a political enemy of Creighton’s who once served as a New York City cop and driver for the late Mayor John Lindsay, might be interested.
Reached later, Vecchio, 85, said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”