Four members of the Suffolk County Legislature's Democratic caucus are criticizing Edward Walsh's re-election last week as county Conservative Party chairman, though the state party leader gave him a vote of confidence as a federal investigation continues.
The lawmakers and a Conservative committeeman said in a news release that Walsh should have been disqualified because of an investigation by the FBI; his sentencing in the 1980s for a sexual assault misdemeanor as a college football player; and his presence at a gambling raid two years ago.
The release was sent by Legis. Kate M. Browning (WF-Shirley) and included statements from Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), the majority leader.
The state Conservative Party, “should stand with women and refuse to validate Walsh as chair,” Hahn said.
Said Calarco: “Their leader has shown a clear indication that he believes he is above the law.”.
State Party chairman Michael Long said Walsh was re-elected “overwhelmingly. I think the [party] convention speaks for itself.”
Long said the federal investigation should be allowed to finish.
Walsh is facing a federal criminal investigation and an effort by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco to fire him from his job as a lieutenant in the correction department.
DeMarco hasn't revealed his reasons for moving to fire Walsh. Newsday has reported that Walsh was a target in an investigation into sheriff's employees charging the county for hours that they did not work.
Walsh has denied any wrongdoing and is fighting termination
“We have a justice system, and have to allow the justice system to function. So far, Eddie hasn’t been charged with anything, officially,” Long said.
Frank Tinari, executive vice chairman of the county Conservative Party and head of the town party in Huntington said critics, “are entitled to say what they want to say. But 745 Conservative committee people feel differently. They elected him.”
Walsh received a standing ovation at the convention last Wednesday night at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge. Many party members held “Team Walsh” signs, and Walsh was re-elected by voice vote to a two-year term.
Only Dan Donnelly, a former Smithtown Conservative Party chairman who also signed onto the Democrats' news release, voiced opposition to Walsh at the convention.
Walsh said he had not seen the Democrats’ news release and would not comment.
Browning said she was surprised Conservatives would back Walsh.
“The Conservative Party will continue to operate with a black eye until he is removed as chair,” Browning said. “How anyone can support his leadership role with a party that influences judgeships and/or take his endorsement with the knowledge of his misdemeanor assault on a woman is inexcusable.”
Walsh has been a powerful figure in Suffolk County politics since he was elected chairman in 2006.