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Steve Bellone must give arena records to Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy, court rules

Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. is

Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. is seeking documents related to a proposal to build a $1.1 billion arena. Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's office must provide records to the county comptroller for an audit of a proposed $1.1 billion sports arena and convention center in Ronkonkoma, a judge has ruled.

State Supreme Court Justice David T. Reilly ruled Tuesday that Bellone's administration must comply with a subpoena filed by County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. last year.

The subpoena seeks documents related to the selection of Jones Lang LaSalle and Ronkonkoma Vision Project LLC to develop plans for the project, which includes a sports arena, a hotel and commercial space.

The order comes three weeks before Election Day, when voters will choose between Bellone and Kennedy for county executive.

Kennedy, a Republican who is challenging Bellone next month for county executive, said he launched his audit after Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine and Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, both Republicans, asked him to look into a “fatally flawed” selection process.

Newsday reported last year that Ronkonkoma Vision Project officials cited a defunct Seattle sports arena as a success story to Suffolk officials, raising questions about their qualifications.

Kennedy filed a subpoena after he received about half the documents he sought through Bellone’s office, which treated it as a freedom of information request.

Bellone’s office filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that Kennedy was acting outside his jurisdiction as comptroller.

Reilly ruled that the comptroller is acting within his authority as the county’s chief fiscal officer to “ensure the prudent and economical use of public moneys in the best interest of taxpayers.”

Kennedy called the judge’s decision “tremendously significant in that it demonstrates that we were never out of bounds, we were never overreaching.”

Jason Elan, a spokesman for Bellone, a Democrat, said the county executive plans to appeal the decision.

"It's hard to see this is anything but politics as usual when no funds have been billed to or paid out from the county," Elan said of the audit.

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