Newly disclosed records show Suffolk district attorney employees have received $3.25 million in bonuses since 2012 — $550,000 more than reported previously — as county lawmakers prepare for a hearing Tuesday on a bill to tighten legislative control over how proceeds from seized criminal assets are spent.
Bonus recipients included deputy chief homicide prosecutor Robert Biancavilla, who received a total of $108,886 between 2012 and 2017, and division chief Edward Heilig and top public corruption prosecutor Christopher McPartland, who each received $73,000, according to records obtained from county Comptroller John Kennedy’s office through the Freedom of Information Law.
Federal prosecutors have charged McPartland and former District Attorney Thomas Spota with attempting to cover up former county Police Chief of Department James Burke’s assault of a suspect who broke into his car. Spota and McPartland have pleaded not guilty.
The bonuses, which were funded from assets seized in criminal cases by the district attorney’s office, did not receive legislative approval. The original figure of $2.7 million came from documents provided by County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, which only included bonuses for top management employees.
On Tuesday, the legislature will hold a public hearing on a bill by Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) to require asset forfeiture expenditures, including by the district attorney’s office and the police, sheriff’s and probation departments, to be approved by the Public Safety Committee.
Calarco called it inappropriate to spend asset forfeiture money on bonuses, particularly without a legislative vote.
“Asset forfeiture money that comes into this county counts into the millions of dollars,” Calarco said. “That’s a lot of money to be spent at the sole discretion of an individual with no oversight.”
Biancavilla said he received the payments, which he called stipends, because he was on-call on nights and weekends as a homicide prosecutor and was serving as an acting deputy bureau chief, although his Civil Service title was lower.
He also said the comptroller’s numbers were inflated. “It certainly wasn’t $109,000 since 2012. I wish it was,” Biancavilla said.
Biancavilla said he “had no idea” money for the stipend was coming from asset forfeiture funds, “nor would we have reason to know where it was coming from.”
District attorney’s office bureau chief John Scott Prudenti got a total of $72,500 in bonuses since 2012, comptroller’s records show. Bellone has criticized Prudenti for renting out his partyboat to defense attorneys with cases before the district attorney’s office.
The district attorney’s office said the rentals stopped in 2010, and that there was nothing inappropriate about them.
Prudenti’s attorney, David Besso, of Bay Shore, said Prudenti “has given 30 years of his life to Suffolk County, prosecuting people who violate the law. He’s as good a public servant as you can find.”
Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, declined to comment on Calarco’s legislation.
Clifford would not say whether additional bonuses will be paid in 2017.
The U.S. attorney’s office has issued a subpoena to Kennedy’s office for information about bonuses, according to a county source with knowledge of the subpoena.
SUFFOLK DISTRICT ATTORNEY BONUS PAYMENTS
Source: Suffolk County Comptroller