Suffolk County’s largest law enforcement union has endorsed Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone for re-election over Republican county comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr.
Suffolk Police Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo said the union supports Bellone because of historically low crime rates and two consecutive PBA contracts DiGerolamo called, “affordable and respectful.”
“We’ve had a long relationship with the county executive that has struck a balance between what is affordable to the taxpayer and appropriate for my membership,” DiGerolamo said in an interview. “And no other county executive in several decades has been willing to work towards finding that balance.”
The endorsement comes after relations between the PBA and Bellone appeared to fray last year, when DiGerolamo expressed frustration about a lack of serious talks over health care concessions.
All county employees, including more than 1,700 PBA members, will have to pay 2 percent of their salary for health coverage for the first time starting Sept. 1, officials announced in May. That month, the PBA agreed to a new six-year contract that will raise the pay of officers with 15 years on the job to $155,693. Overtime and benefits such as longevity pay could bring the incomes of half of all PBA members to $200,000 by the end of the contract.
Suffolk Republican chairman Jesse Garcia, speaking on behalf of Kennedy’s campaign, criticized Bellone for delaying the contract until an election year. Garcia said the agreement could have been voted on before it expired in January, saving Suffolk money.
“Bellone continues to play politics with the taxpayers and hardworking employees of Suffolk County,” Garcia said.
DiGerolamo said most collective bargaining contracts in Suffolk are not finalized until after they expire, and the PBA contract happened to expire this year.
"Democratic and Republican legislators alike overwhelmingly voted for this contract and applauded it as fair for both taxpayers and county law enforcement," said Bellone campaign manager Derek Poppe.
The Suffolk PBA PAC has donated $10,000 to Bellone this year, and the PBA has given $3,000 to Kennedy, records show.