As the intraparty war between Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and District Attorney Thomas Spota escalated on Thursday, three more county lawmakers called on Spota to resign while Democrats were more restrained.
Bellone, a Democrat, started an hourslong back-and-forth with Spota, also a Democrat, by holding a news conference on the steps of Spota’s office to demand he step down, accusing the district attorney of running a “criminal enterprise.”
Hours earlier, County Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), who caucuses with the Democratic majority, became the first lawmaker to ask Spota to give up his post. She cited disclosures Thursday in Newsday that Spota’s office failed to prosecute possible criminal activity uncovered in wiretaps, including drug trafficking that led to the sale of cocaine to local teens.
“I’m disgusted. It made me sick to my stomach,” said Browning, head of the legislature’s public safety committee.
Spota said the report should be “disregarded in its entirety.” In a news conference that responded to Bellone, he said the county executive had a “vendetta” against him for investigating his allies.
Republican county legislators used the day’s events to reiterate calls that Bellone and Spota step down. Three caucus members — Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey of Lindenhurst, Tom Cilmi of Bay Shore and Robert Trotta of Fort Salonga — had on Tuesday asked for the resignations, with Leslie Kennedy of Nesconset only joining them in regard to Bellone.
But on Thursday, Kennedy and Legis. Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) were cited in a news release as now wanting Spota to resign as well.
The GOP lawmakers have criticized Bellone for naming James Burke as his police chief upon taking office in 2012 — despite an anonymous letter detailing allegations of wrongdoing by him — and then initially standing by Burke when he was accused of beating a burglary suspect in 2012.
Burke pleaded guilty this year to federal charges of violating the burglary suspect’s civil rights and orchestrating a cover-up of the crime. Spota stood by the former chief until just recently.
“In light of everything that’s been reported, questions should be asked about the conspicuous absence of our Democratic colleagues” in asking for the resignations, Cilmi said.
Democrats hold a 12-6 legislative majority, and none has called for Spota to step down. Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Majority Leader Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) all said Thursday they didn’t have enough information to join Browning and call for Spota’s resignation.
Suffolk PBA president Noel DiGerolamo said there’s no reason for Spota to resign, while Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, a Spota backer who has feuded with Bellone, agreed — as he expressed regret over Bellone starting the chain of mudslinging news conferences.
“Everybody needs to take a deep breath, and they need to start acting like adults in their positions,” Schaffer said.