Suffolk’s powerful Police Benevolent Association balked at teeing up for County Executive Steve Bellone’s annual golf outing last week out of frustration over a lack of serious talks to hammer out a pact for $30 million in health concessions Bellone already has budgeted for this year.
“I did not purchase any tickets or sponsorship for this event as we have in the past and at this time we are evaluating all of our relationships,” said Noel DiGerolamo, president of the politically potent 1,700 member police union. Last year, the PBA donated $10,000 to Bellone’s campaign as an event sponsor, according to state elections records.
DiGerolamo said the union and top Bellone deputies have met only a “few times” for negotiations this year, even though the county executive has sought millions in givebacks for this year.
”There’s a certain level of discomfort when organized labor is asked to provide tens of millions of dollars in savings, which are already in the budget and yet we have only met a few times,” DiGerolamo said. “I don’t know how we achieve the goal.”
Bellone aides declined to comment.
The issue of political donations came up last month in a meeting of Suffolk’s 10 county unions. Deputy sheriffs and Suffolk County Community College’s faculty union also did not take part in Bellone’s event. However, the Association of Municipal Employees and the 1,800-member corrections union had committed to take part in Bellone’s golf outing prior to those discussions.
Union concerns intensified in May when Bellone, in his state of the county message, labeled health insurance costs as “unsustainable.”
Kevin Peterman, president of SCCC’s faculty, called Bellone’s statements “inappropriate” in light of ongoing talks on concessions. “Negotiations should take place at the table, not in the press,” Peterman said.
DiGerolamo’s salvo is his second aimed at Bellone. He endorsed GOP county Comptroller John Kennedy for re-election, while Bellone is strongly backing Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
“As always, I am willing to sit down in collaborative fashion to work with the county,” DiGerolamo said. “But such a meeting requires both parties.”