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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Suffolk presiding officer blames Bellone camp for baseless probe; exec denies it

Suffolk Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory is blaming backers of County Executive Steve Bellone for sparking a short-lived district attorney probe, which turned out to be unfounded, into whether he is living in the district, according to legislative sources.

Gregory (D-Amityville) told the Democratic caucus the district attorney cleared him about a week ago, sources say. They said the new legislative leader believes the probe was prompted because Bellone was upset Gregory won presiding officer instead of Legis. Louis D’Amaro (D-North Babylon). District Attorney Thomas Spota declined comment.

The sources say Gregory confronted Bellone’s closest political ally -- Robert Stricoff, Babylon Democratic chairman -- after being cleared and blamed him for the ploy, which Stricoff denied. Over the weekend, they add, Gregory, at Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer’s urging, met directly with Bellone, who also claimed having no role.

The probe came about because Gregory rents an apartment in Amityville while his wife of three years, Erica, lives in St. James, because they wanted her two sons to graduate from Smithtown East High School. One is now in college and the second will graduate in June. The couple plan to buy a house in Gregory’s district after June. Gregory said he cooperated fully and that his landlord and corner crossing guard vouched for his residency.

Gregory said word got back to him that Stricoff had for months been raising the residency issue behind the scenes and even scouted for a possible replacement, the sources say. Stricoff did not return calls for comment.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said neither the county executive, nor Stricoff, nor anyone connected to the administration had any involvement and relations remain “fine” with Gregory. “If anyone uses the district attorney’s office for a pointless investigation, they have committed some kind of crime that ought to be investigated,” he said.

Gregory would only say he will not allow the issue to interfere with the public’s business.

“I stand ready to work with the county executive, if he’s ready to put political fantasies aside and do the business of the people,” Gregory said.

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