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Bellone vetoes Suffolk lawmakers’ equal vote resolution

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at an

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at an LIA breakfast on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 in Woodbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vetoed a resolution giving lawmakers an equal vote on a county committee that can waive rules requiring a competitive selection process on contracts, saying it poses an “insurmountable conflict” with his role as the county’s administrative head.

Bellone issued the veto Friday on the bipartisan measure that had been approved by a 12-6 vote, enough to override the county executive’s veto. Twelve votes are needed to override a county executive’s veto.

The resolution would increase the three-member waiver committee to four, giving legislative appointees an equal vote with county executive representatives. It also would — for the first time — give the Republican minority an appointee in addition to one for the Democratic majority. Currently, the committee has two executive appointees and one legislative one.

“The county executive is elected to oversee the administrative functions of county government while members of the legislature are elected to use legislative controls to support county functions,” said Bellone in his veto message. “This legislation presents an insurmountable conflict with the fundamental structure of Suffolk County government.”

The county executive said he supported the current setup, which was created in 2012 to increase transparency by making the waiver process public and giving the legislature input. The new resolution, he said, changes the committee’s balance by requiring three votes to grant waivers. A “split tied vote would make the committee nonfunctional,” he added.

Legis. Tom Cilmi, resolution sponsor and GOP caucus leader, said there was no attempt to obstruct county business. “I don’t know what he’s scared of,” he said. “If two members vote against a waiver, it means both a Republican and a Democrat believe it is an inappropriate request and it should be denied at that point.”

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), a co-sponsor, said he was disappointed, saying Democrats still retained a majority on the committee and a member of the minority “should have input when we are spending millions of dollars and the waiver committee is being used more and more.”

Bellone, in his message, said his staff was doing a comprehensive review to improve the efficiency of procurement, and he was “disinclined to approve” any changes until the review was complete.

Both Cilmi and Gregory say they will push for an override, but expect Bellone will try to peel off votes to sustain his veto. “I’m hopeful people will keep politics out of it,” Gregory said. “We’re not always going to be the majority and the minority as well as the majority should have some input.”

An override vote will be held at the next meeting of the legislature on April 24.

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