Although Suffolk County has twice lost its legal battle in the Appellate Division for diverting $29.4 million from the county drinking water program, the county has hired a new law firm and is asking to reargue the case before the same court.
The Appellate Division on June 27 ordered the county to restore the money to the county sewer fund.
Attorneys for the Long Island Pine Barrens Society expressed surprise the county would even consider going back to the appeals court again.
“It’s clearly frivolous,” said Paul Sabatino, an attorney for the Pine Barrens Society. Dick Amper, the society's executive director, called the county’s continued battle “a violation of the public trust.”
The appeals court in 2012 ruled the original diversion of $29.4 million from 2011 to 2013 when Steve Levy was county executive was “illegal null and void” because the move did not get voter approval in a referendum.
County Executive Steve Bellone has said the issue was resolved in a 2014 settlement with the society over his similar diversion of $32.8 million. That deal allowed the county to borrow $171.3 million from the sewer fund as long as it repaid the money by 2029. However, the deal did not cover Levy’s diversion.
Court papers show the county has hired the outside law firm of Devitt, Spellman and Barrett of Smithtown to handle the latest appeal.
County Attorney Dennis Brown declined to comment on Suffolk's latest legal action or the hiring of the outside firm because “the matter is in litigation.”