Aerial view of the new Suffolk County Jail in Yaphank...

Aerial view of the new Suffolk County Jail in Yaphank where work is still underway. (March 25, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

The state agency overseeing Suffolk County's $156 million construction of a maximum-security jail in Yaphank has asked the state attorney general's office to help it retrieve its records of the project from the county.

In 2007, the Judicial Facilities Agency agreed to allow Suffolk to hold all records related to the jail construction in order to save space and money, said Michael O'Donohoe, the agency's vice chairman. He said the agency had requested the documents' release -- initially in November and then in May -- from the county but has been unable to get them back.

"It's extremely embarrassing," he said. "It's like trying to get your suit back from the cleaners, and the guy keeps telling you no."

Late Thursday, Dan Aug, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy, said county Department of Public Works officials misunderstood the Judicial Facilities Agency's request for its records and that the county executive's office would direct them to turn over the records immediately.

Aug said, however, that "it may take some time to fulfill this multifaceted request."

In a letter sent Wednesday to the attorney general's office, agency chairman Martin Cantor and O'Donohoe said they had asked the county Public Works Department "to immediately deliver all of the documents related to the project that are in the possession of Suffolk County to the JFA. . . . As of yet, the JFA has not received the requested documents."

In February, Newsday filed suit against the Department of Public Works for records related to the jail construction, arguing that the county had not released all the documents it requested. That case is pending.

Newsday has reported that contractors and trade unions working on the new jail contributed more than $924,000 to Levy's $4.3-million campaign fund. In March, Levy agreed to forfeit his entire campaign fund to resolve an investigation into his fundraising by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.

The jail project, the largest public works project in more than three decades in Suffolk, was initially put under the Judicial Facilities Agency to save money. Agency minutes reflect friction between the agency and the county. For example, at the agency's Dec. 14, 2006, meeting, both Cantor and O'Donohoe complained that a $15-million bid for the jail had been awarded without their knowledge.

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