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Republican Rudy Sunderman to quit Suffolk Legislature

Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) announced he

Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) announced he will resign his seat on March 21, 2021. Credit: James Escher

Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman announced Wednesday he will resign his seat next month to become deputy director of the Suffolk County Fire Academy.

Sunderman (R-Shirley), who has pleaded not guilty to felony perjury charges for allegedly lying to the Suffolk County Board of Ethics, said his decision had "nothing to do" with his criminal case and was instead about accepting his "dream job."

Sunderman, who represents the 3rd District covering south-central Brookhaven Town, has served as the Mastic Fire Department chief for 34 years. He had worked previously as an instructor at the fire academy for 14 years.

"Those who know me well, know that this field has been my passion, and with many years experience, I will continue to serve as your local fire chief," Sunderman said in a statement.

Sunderman was indicted in July 2019 for allegedly telling the ethics board falsely that he no longer worked for the Centereach Fire District.

Sunderman, who joined the county legislature in 2018, created a shell company in his wife's name so he could continue receiving income from the district, prosecutors said.

Suffolk County legislators are not permitted to hold two paid public jobs at once.

Sunderman has said he is "innocent of all charges."

His attorney, Ray Perini, said the court "dismissed the count this whole investigation was based on" — a misdemeanor charge for getting two public paychecks — because Sunderman did not receive a paycheck directly from the fire district.

Sunderman, who said he has focused on improving infrastructure and reducing zombie homes in his district, will step down from the legislature on March 21 and begin at the fire academy April 1.

A special election will be held within 90 days of the vacancy for the remainder of his term, which ends in December.

A general election for a full two-year term in the 3rd District will be held in November, along with elections for all other county legislature seats, officials said.

Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said the party planned to announce its 3rd District candidate soon.

Suffolk Democratic Party spokesman Keith Davies said Democrats will back Kate Browning, who held the 3rd District seat for 12 years until she was term-limited in 2017.

Sunderman is one of three Suffolk County legislators facing criminal charges.

Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who has pleaded not guilty to charges for allegedly trying to trade opioid pills for sex, is not seeking reelection in November.

Legis. Nicholas Caracappa (C-Selden), who has pleaded not guilty to domestic violence-related charges, is filling the remainder of the term of the late Republican Legis. Tom Muratore.

Sunderman is set to appear in court on March 10.

The Yaphank fire academy trains 12,000 firefighters a year and is operated by the Vocational Education & Extension Board, a nonprofit group created by state legislation to run the academy.

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