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Brookhaven, Babylon going to court to block Suffolk Civil Service director

The towns will seek a temporary restraining order to keep County Executive Steve Bellone's appointee Jo-Anne Taormina from working as Suffolk personnel officer.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Brookhaven and Babylon towns are going to court Monday to block County Executive Steve Bellone’s appointee Jo-Anne Taormina from working as Suffolk personnel officer, arguing the job still belongs to holdover Alan Schneider.

Theodore Sklar, attorney for the towns, sent notice to all parties Friday of the impending court appearance in state Supreme Court to seek a temporary restraining order to keep Taormina from “performing or exercising any of the powers” of the $163,699-a-year job.

The action also seeks to prevent Bellone from “interfering in any way,” with Schneider's ability to function as personnel director.

County Attorney Dennis Brown declined to comment on the towns’ legal action.

Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman, did not return calls for comment.

Legis. Tom Cilmi, GOP caucus leader, said he has asked Legislative Counsel Sarah Simpson to draft a procedural resolution to have the legislature join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

Cilmi of Bay Shore said Bellone does not have the legal authority to unilaterally install Taormina as personnel director until she is confirmed by the legislature.

Cilmi said the towns “have a right to make the complaint because they are significantly impacted” by the personnel director, who makes decisions on Civil Service issues affecting towns and more than 268 other jurisdictions throughout Suffolk County.

Cilmi said the legislature also is aggrieved. “It is only right we assert our authority and stand up to another attempt by the county executive to bully the legislature,” said Cilmi.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said he personally backs the suit. But he acknowledged it is “awkward” for some Democrats because they feel “no one should fight in an election year — we should be unified and not give any help to the Republicans.”

But he said, “There’s no wrong time to do what’s right.” He said Bellone has “failed to follow the proper process,” and he and aides, “just do what they want to do.”

Bellone aides removed Schneider from his office on Feb. 15, several days after his six-year term was up. Schneider had served as Suffolk's top civil service officer for the past 36 years.

Bellone appointed Taormina, a former North Hempstead Town chief of staff, to the post. Bellone swore in Taormina last Tuesday, but acknowledged she must win confirmation from the legislature.

Brown has said once Schneider’s term expired, “the office became vacant for the purpose of naming a successor.” He said the county executive, “was authorized to appoint a qualified successor who serves pending legislative approval.”

Earlier, Elan had said state Civil Service has concurred that Taormina is qualified for the job.

But a state Civil Service spokeswoman in Albany said the department, gave “technical assistance regarding candidates’ minimum qualifications.” She also said the department "does not have a role in approval of appointments.”

County Comptroller John Kennedy, who is challenging Bellone for county executive, has said he will not pay Taormina until she is confirmed.

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