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Rules of engagement?: Suffolk lawmaker decides approach on bill

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) is weighing whether to vote tomorrow to override a veto on his own bills to require prompt contracting and payment to non-profit groups that do business with the county.

That’s because Gregory has gotten engaged to Erica Chase, executive director of the Health and Human Service Council, a coalition representing more than 90 non-profit agencies.

County Executive Steve Levy vetoed the measures, saying the county has already streamlined the contract process and Gregory’s bill would have taxpayers foot interest penalties to non-profits if the county fails to pay within 30 days. Levy aides declined comment on Gregory’s situation.

Gregory said he made no secret that he’d been dating Chase since April 2009, and emphasized many contract agencies suffer financial difficulties because of slow payments. He said he simply resurrected several earlier bills dealing with the same issue.

Chase’s group itself has no county contracts and her job is funded by the Hagedorn Foundation, and he derives no benefits from her work. Chase, however, did speak in favor of the legislation at public hearings. The couple got engaged June 26, several days after the last county legislature meeting, where the bills passed.

Gregory has had discussions with legislative counsel George Nolan about whether he should vote on the override. Nolan said that ethical issues usually arise when when someone becomes a spouse. “Dating is different from being married,” he said. “We’re looking at the ethical issues.”

Gregory has also resigned from Presiding Officer William Lindsay’s five-member committee to review the ethics commission because he “did not want the administration to make any kind of issue of it.”

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