Today's installment in the tit-for-tat over Suffolk's financial disclosure forms comes from the Legislature's special committee that is investigating the county Ethics Commission, which invited County Executive Steve Levy to "share with us your views on the failure of the disclosure forms and the county disclosure system which you helped shape."
"We hope you will accept our invitation to voluntarily come before the special committee," the letter (full text below) concludes. "In the interest of accommodating your very busy schedule, we ask that you reply to our invitation within one week. As far as your question of whether we will broaden the scope of our review, our inquiry is wide open and will go wherever it takes us."
Levy, of course, filed the state's relatively limited financial disclosure form rather than the county's more detailed version because he was a member of the state Pine Barrens Commission. Levy said last week that the commission's executive director, Alfred Lama, gave him permission to do so.
Levy's camp has yet to respond to our request to discuss the latest letter, but the guess here is that the special committee members -- Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) and Legislators Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) and Lynne Nowick (R-St. James) -- shouldn't hold their breath waiting.
This letter is a response to Levy's missive last week that demanded the committee investigate legislators' financial disclosure statements. He did that after the Legislature voted to hire former federal prosecutor Joseph Conway to as counsel to the special committee.
Update (2:50 p.m.): Levy spokesman Mark Smith offers this response:
"Presiding Officer Lindsay and his committee continue to contradict themselves. On the one hand they say the committee’s role is only to determine whether or not the Ethics Commission is complying with county law, despite the fact that there has not been one scintilla of evidence suggesting the contrary.
Yet the P.O. was quoted in Newsday last month saying: “this is supposed to be an independent panel, but it doesn’t appear to be one’ , and Legislator Kennedy went so far as to say: “the commission is supposed to be a neutral like Switzerland…that whole degree of independence and confidence in them has been lost.”
This continues to sound like a special committee that has already made up its mind, especially considering the fact that the procedural motion which hired special counsel referenced only the county executive’s disclosures and two ethics matters the executive office filed.
As for the committee’s invitation, we will first allow the group to meet with its special counsel and determine the true metes and bounds of its review, or whether or not there has even been a basic threshold reached that merits any investigation at all. We would also heartily encourage committee members to read New York State General Municipal Law which would put to rest any question of whether or not the local is mandated to accept filing of the state form in this instance.
New York State General Municipal Law, Section 811(1)(b):
“…a person who is subject to the filing requirements of both subdivision two of section seventy-three-a of the public officers law and of this subdivision may satisfy the requirements of this subdivision by filing a copy of the statement filed pursuant to section seventy-three-a of the public officers law with the appropriate body, as defined in section eight hundred ten of this article, on or before the filing deadline provided in such section seventy-three-a, notwithstanding the filing deadline otherwise imposed by this subdivision.”