Edward Walsh, the embattled head of the Conservative Party in Suffolk County, has announced that he will retire from his job as a lieutenant in the county sheriff’s department Friday, the day his pension vests.
Walsh, who is facing trial in March on federal charges that he stole more than $80,000 from the department by putting in for time he did not work, released the news of his retirement this week on his personal Facebook page.
In another statement released Thursday, Walsh said: “It has been an honor to have served the people of Suffolk County for over 25 years with so many dedicated and wonderful men and women. I will truly miss the camaraderie we shared.”
One of Walsh’s attorneys, William Wexler of North Babylon, said: “After 25 years of serving the sheriff’s department and the people of Suffolk County dutifully, he has decided to retire.”
Walsh’s retirement had nothing to do with the upcoming trial, Wexler said. He reiterated Walsh’s innocence, but said even if Walsh were to be convicted, he would not lose the pension now that he is vested.
Wexler said his client plans to devote more time to the leadership of the Conservative Party, in which he plays a powerful and active role, helping to select people for judgeships, among other positions.
As to the charges against Walsh, Wexler said, “We are prepared for trial.”
Wexler said the amount of the pension has not yet been calculated. Walsh earned $121,000 annually in his sheriff’s job.
The setting of the March trial date by federal District Court Judge Arthur Spatt was fortuitous for Walsh because if he had been convicted before February, he might not have been able to collect his pension. But in setting the date, Spatt noted he had other matters scheduled before March.
Michael Sharkey, chief deputy Suffolk County sheriff and the jail’s chief of staff and spokesman, declined to comment, as did Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York.
Walsh and his attorneys have said the federal indictment, involving his pay in the sheriff’s department, is actually aimed at getting him to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation into political corruption on Long Island.
Walsh has maintained that he has not done anything illegal and has just engaged in traditional political activities.
In relation to the accusation that he put in for time he did not work, Walsh’s attorneys have said his work schedule was flexible, and it was understood that anytime he put in for days he did not actually work, he could make up those days at a later date.
Eastern District federal prosecutor Catherine Mirabile said in court in January that every time sheet Walsh submitted weekly for 39 weeks to the sheriff’s department was false, “except for when he was on vacation.”
Mirabile said that between January 2011 and April 2014, Walsh illegally put in for time he spent working for the Conservative Party, golfing or gambling, or was at home or at his tailor being measured for clothing.
Walsh was indicted in March on charges of theft of government funds and wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty.
Wexler has said his client’s legal problems began when he clashed with Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, a fellow Conservative Party member.
DeMarco is Walsh’s boss in the sheriff’s department, while Walsh is above DeMarco in the Conservative Party.
DeMarco went to federal authorities with allegations against Walsh only after the Conservative Party leader declined to back the sheriff in a run for Congress, Wexler has said.
DeMarco has said he was seeking to fire Walsh and was turning over information about him to authorities, but could not comment on the allegations against Walsh due to state law.