Michael Torres, the influential secretary of the Suffolk Conservative Committee, has a new career.
Philip Nolan, Suffolk OTB president, said Torres will start work Monday as a $65,000-a-year customer relations representative in OTB’s Hauppauge headquarters. OTB’s 350 jobs are exempt from Civil Service tests and split between Republicans and Democrats, who sometimes also name minor party allies to jobs.
Torres, 45, of Eastport, is part of the Conservative Party leadership that last month made a cross-endorsement agreement with Democrats and the Independence Party to nominate District Court Judge Marian Rose Tinari for county surrogate judge. Tinari is the wife of Suffolk Conservative chairman Frank Tinari.
Torres is a former Islip Conservative leader and onetime ally of ex-party chairman Edward Walsh, who is serving a sentence in federal prison for illegally collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay from the Suffolk sheriff’s department while golfing, gambling and politicking on county time.
Torres’ last public job was as a $106,582-a-year senior assistant elections commissioner, a patronage job controlled by Republicans, until his firing in 2015. He later filed a federal lawsuit, which is still pending, claiming he was axed because his party refused to back the GOP choice for a District Court judge.
“He came to me about a month ago,” Nolan said. “I asked for his resume and we had several discussions.”
Nolan said Torres has done “extensive customer and personnel work, and has communications abilities.” Nolan said he will use him to expand OTB’s Qwik Bets operation, which takes automated bets in 41 restaurants and bars.
Nolan said he was aware of Torres’ “past infractions,” referring to 2014 felony charges that he failed to disclose a past gambling conviction on an Islip Town application for the Suffolk Board of Assessment Review. Torres in December pleaded guilty to noncriminal violation of disorderly conduct and paid a $250 fine.
“It’s a great hire for OTB,” said Frank MacKay, state and Suffolk chairman of the Independence Party. “People should realize the claim against Mike was the equivalent of a traffic ticket.”
Nolan said Torres has undergone a background check and OTB has taken fingerprints as with all employees as part of its review. He added the state gaming commission found there is “nothing that precludes us from hiring him in any way, shape or form.”
Torres will fill a job vacated by Elena Losquadro, daughter of Steve Losquadro, counsel to the Suffolk Republican Committee, who was paid $50,000 a year. Nolan said Torres is being paid more for his experience.
John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman, and Kenneth Auerbach, a Conservative Party dissident who is fighting in court to unseat county Conservative leaders, did not return calls for comment. Nick LaLota, Suffolk’s Republican elections commissioner, who fired Torres in 2015, declined to comment.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said Torres’ hiring has no connection to the cross-endorsement deal for county surrogate judge.
“I was asked my thoughts and I recommended him [Torres] based on my knowledge of him, his work ethic and his interpersonal skills,” Schaffer said. “Just because people are involved in politics does not mean they should be excluded from consideration.”