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Lawyer defends Suffolk whistleblower probe, and submits final report

Attorney Joel R. Weiss speaks before the Suffolk

Attorney Joel R. Weiss speaks before the Suffolk Legislature in Hauppauge on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The lawyer for the Suffolk Legislature’s whistleblower probe on Tuesday defended the legitimacy of the investigation into the promotion of the nephew of the county police chief of detectives, and filed his final report on the matter.

During a 90-minute appearance before lawmakers, outside counsel Joel R. Weiss sought to rebut a letter from David Kelley, a former U.S. Attorney representing the county in the matter.

Kelley had urged the Legislature to drop its investigation. He also said legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) could have a legal conflict of interest and could obstruct a federal review of the promotion.

Weiss produced a May 9 email from Carolyn Weiss, a Justice Department lawyer involved with the federal consent decree dealing with discrimination in police hiring.

“We have not found our separate investigatory jurisdictions to be in conflict as they are exercised simultaneously," Weiss wrote. "Therefore, we do not see your investigation as an impediment to our review.”

After Weiss finished his public testimony, he continued to meet in closed session with lawmakers for two hours. Later, Gregory revealed that Weiss had filed his confidential report on the promotion issue, which had been raised by a whistleblower. Gregory declined to make the report public.

However, Gregory said he will introduce a resolution to rescind the transfer of Salvatore Gigante, a police sergeant who is the nephew of Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante, into an elite district attorney detective squad.

Gregory said Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart would be asked to testify before lawmakers about the transfer.

Gregory also said he would propose legislation to tighten the county nepotism law, which requires legislative approval when relatives of high ranking officials are hired or promoted into non-civil service posts.

Gigante became a sergeant last August as a result of a civil service exam. Police officials later selected him to become a detective sergeant in the DA’s police squad because of his past experience with the unit.

Gigante was transferred to the DA’s office Jan. 2. He kept his sergeant’s rank with no raise because the legislature had not yet approved a nepotism resolution to authorize the promotion.

The administration of County Executive Steve Bellone withdrew the resolution March 19 when Justice Department officials told the county they were reviewing Gigante’s transfer.

During Joel Weiss's legislative testimony Tuesday, Gregory clashed with Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, saying the Bellone administration, police officials and District Attorney Timothy Sini had refused to cooperate with Weiss’s probe.

Gregory also said Kelley has his own potential conflict as Sini’s former campaign chairman.

“They should clean up their own house and stop acting like the Soprano crime family,” Gregory said.

“The district attorney’s office will not engage with or be distracted by political grandstanding of any sort," said Sini's communications director, Sheila Kelly.

"While Mr. Gregory’s comments were inappropriate, untrue, and hateful toward Italian Americans, we remain focused on impartially serving the residents of Suffolk County and will not allow any politician to politicize law enforcement in our County,” Kelly said.

Kaiman also countered, citing Gregory’s potential conflict as a possible witness in the whistleblower probe.

Separately, Kaiman and John Cowie, Suffolk Superior Officers Association president, acknowledged the union has a grievance against the county over Gigante’s transfer to the district attorney's police squad. They said the issue is whether Gigante has the authority to supervise detectives as a sergeant.

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