Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who called last month for a probe of former civil service head Alan Schneider, will seek a waiver Wednesday to hire outside attorneys to conduct an inquiry, even though Schneider has since retired.
Without mentioning Schneider by name, county attorney Dennis Brown asked the three-member waiver committee to authorize the hiring of the Manhattan-based law firm of Littler Mendelson for an “employment-related investigation into discrimination.” Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman, would say only that the probe involves “a personnel issue in civil service.”
Schneider declined to comment.
In his request, Brown said his staff had no one “with the requisite expertise” to adequately represent the county. Due to the “highly sensitive nature of such an investigation it would be in the county’s best interest to retain an outside law firm,” he said.
When the issue first arose, Bellone said in comments released by aides that “allegations have come forward that have prompted serious concern.” Bellone said he would order the hiring of an outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of Schneider.
Schneider, a 36-year county veteran whose most recent six-year term ran out Feb. 12, had maintained he legally remained a holdover in the civil service job until Bellone nominated, and the county legislature confirmed, a successor.
Bellone named Jo-Anne Taormina as the county's new personnel officer Feb. 15, and had aides order Schneider to leave his office.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli issued a temporary court order Feb. 25, reinstating Schneider in a lawsuit brought by Brookhaven and Babylon towns. Hours later, Schneider announced his resignation. That was not long after Bellone referred to the unspecified allegation.
Brown, in his waiver request, said five firms specializing in employment investigations and disputes were solicited in a request for qualifications, and the county got four responses and interviewed two firms. The committee gives county agencies waivers from state requirements for competitive bidding.
Brown said Littler Mendelson had the “most impressive record and is best equipped” to serve county needs. He also said its rates ranging, from $370 per hour to $621 an hour are "fair and competitive.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said Bellone would be “better served” to put forward a resolution seeking legislative confirmation of Taormina’s appointment, rather than pursuing Schneider, who has left county employment.
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), the minority leader, said, "It seems to me if the county executive wanted to explore allegations against Mr. Schneider, it should have been done while he was an employee.”