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Steve Bellone appeals ruling that halted county RFPs

The Suffolk County executive is challenging an injunction barring the county from issuing requests for contract proposals.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at Suffolk County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at Suffolk County Community College on May 17, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has appealed an injunction  that barred the county from issuing requests for contract proposals, and the ban has been lifted until the appellate court rules.

Bellone appealed the state Supreme Court ruling after Justice David Reilly issued a preliminary injunction last month in a suit brought by county Comptroller John M. Kennedy to assert his authority to do performance audits during the bidding process.

The stay order signed by Associate Justice Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix set a hearing for Oct. 19.

“This decision is a victory for residents as the court has effectively stopped Comptroller Kennedy from shutting down the government,” said Joseph Macy, representing the county executive. “To be clear, the comptroller has no legal basis or authority to interfere with an ongoing bid process, and we believe the court will ultimately agree with our position.”

Kennedy originally sued over the parks department’s request for proposals to replace Beach Hut as concessionaire at four county beaches.  He sought a monitoring role in real time after his audit found Beach Hut shortchanged the county on fees and taxes, resulting in a conviction and fines and penalties totaling $1.1 million.

During the suit, Kennedy agreed to let the contract proceed to allow the concessions to open in time for this past summer . But Kennedy pressed for a declaratory judgment on whether he has the right to audit a bid process that is underway.

Macy, who replaced Mark Cuthbertson, a Huntington Town Board member, as Bellone’s attorney in the case, said the lower court “improvidently granted” the injunction, noting Kennedy never asked to block all requests for proposals. Macy said the court never gave a “factual or legal basis … to grant such extremely broad … relief.”

He also said Kennedy has given no indication he plans to audit any of the RFPs, now blocked.

Speaking of the Bellone administration, Kennedy said, “after turning a blind eye to a criminal enterprise for seven years, anyone has to question their ability to pick a reputable vendor.”

Peter Bee, Kennedy’s outside counsel, said, “The matter is going to be heard Monday, and we welcome the opportunity to put the comptroller’s position before the court.”

 In the trial court ruling, Reilly said the Suffolk County charter “does not appear to limit” Kennedy, who is “already empowered to review the RFP process.” Reilly continued, “Should the comptroller be stripped of this authority, the possibility of perversion within the RFP process arises.”

Bellone aides say they will move ahead with 14 RFPs that were stalled by the preliminary injunction, as well as others in public works.

Projects that  have been blocked include RFPs on a cyber security risk assessment of county computers, particularly in law enforcement; an FAA-mandated study of potential obstructions at Gabreski Airport; and a proposal to run the stables at West Hills County Park once illegally dumped toxic debris is cleaned up.

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