A proposal to move Philip Berdolt from Suffolk County parks chief to public works commissioner stalled temporarily Monday when aides to County Executive Steve Bellone asked for tabling of the resolution and a companion bill to drop a mandate that he be a licensed professional engineer.
The public works committee tabled both measures without discussion shortly after Andrew Haimes, former state and Suffolk president of the Society of Professional Engineers, said the group was “strongly opposed” to allowing a non-licensed person as DPW commissioner.
“It is unrealistic and even absurd to think that a public works commissioner could effectively pass all of that engineering supervision and responsibility to others in his department,” said Haimes.
While the legislation says the move aims to “broaden the qualifications” for potential candidates, "what it actually accomplishes is to open the position to an unqualified candidate,” Haimes said.
Amy Keyes, Bellone’s legislative liaison, said the administration requested the tabling “to work things out.” She declined to be more specific, referring further questions to Jason Elan, Bellone's spokesman.
“We continue to have ongoing discussion with members of the legislature,” said Elan, who declined to disclose details of the talks.
Berdolt, as parks commissioner, is popular personally with lawmakers in both parties.
Democratic Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), public works committee chair, said, “we could use five Phil Berdolts,” although he has not taken a position on the bill to drop the engineering requirement.
“It’s very important that we have to have the right structure in place,” Krupski said, to ensure public works, which is in charge of all county roads, bridges and buildings.
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore,) legislative minority leader, said although he has “the utmost respect for Phil Berdolt,” he has “personal concerns” about dropping the engineering requirement. “The nature of being a professional engineer is that you are held to certain professional and ethical standards,” Cilmi said.
Before becoming $163,399 parks commissioner, Berdolt served as deputy public works commissioner, earning $151,000 a year. He also served for a decade as Babylon Town public works commissioner.