A day after his indictment on federal theft and fraud charges, Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh interviewed political candidates and elected officials seeking the party's endorsement in November election.
Walsh participated in candidate screenings at a law office in Islip Saturday, where 18 candidates for county legislature and Brookhaven Town races were interviewed, according to a party list.
"He was obviously running the show. He was obviously in charge," said Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), who was screened. "If he had a legal problem, it wasn't obvious by looking at anyone in that room."
Other elected officials who were interviewed for Conservative endorsements included county legislators Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip), and Brookhaven Town candidates included Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. They either did not return calls for comment or declined to comment.
Walsh, a lieutenant in the Suffolk sheriff's department, was arrested in January. Federal prosecutors said he charged the county for overtime and straight pay while he golfed and conducted political work.
The federal grand jury indictment on one count of theft of funds and one count of wire fraud was filed Friday.
Walsh will plead not guilty when he is arraigned later this week or early next week, said his attorney, William Wexler. "He vigorously denies having done anything wrong and the charges are simply wrongheaded."
Wexler also said Walsh "has no plans to step down" as party chief.
Walsh declined to comment Monday.
Sheriff Vincent DeMarco began investigating Walsh last year. But Walsh has retained his hold on power. Conservatives overwhelmingly re-elected him in September as county chairman, and he has continued to hold fundraisers and swearing-in ceremonies.
Frank Profeta, co-chairman of the Brookhaven Conservative Party, who participated in the screenings Saturday, said the indictment was never brought up.
"It was business as usual, like nothing ever happened. That was weird," Profeta said.
Brookhaven Conservatives are suing Walsh and the county party for taking away their power to endorse town candidates.
Conservative Party Vice Chairman Frank Tinari, Huntington Conservative Party leader and first in line if Walsh leaves, did not return calls for comment.
Michael O'Donohoe, a Conservative former county legislator and commissioner of jurors, said Walsh should step aside.
"People are not looking at Ed Walsh, chair of the Conservative Party. They're looking at Ed Walsh, indicted Conservative leader. Do you want this guy standing next to you when the picture is taken? You want to have this endorsement?"
McCaffrey, who faces a competitive re-election fight, said, "It wasn't my place to go in and tell him he should or shouldn't be conducting the meeting."Conservative Party endorsements are expected to be announced at the end of the month.
Islip Conservative Chairman Michael Torres, who was charged by the Suffolk district attorney with concealing criminal convictions on a town job application by the district attorney, was also at the screening. His attorney, William Keahon, did not immediately return a call for comment.