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Babylon Democrats target of DA probe into financial irregularities

Robert Stricoff, new executive director of the Suffolk

Robert Stricoff, new executive director of the Suffolk County IDA, sits inside the Courtyard Marriot in East Farmingdale, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Financial irregularities in the Babylon Town Democratic Party have been referred to the Suffolk County district attorney for investigation, county Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Tuesday.

Sources said the irregularities concern unauthorized salary payments and reimbursements to Babylon Town Democratic leader Robert Stricoff, a close ally and boyhood friend of County Executive Steve Bellone.

Schaffer declined to comment on the subject of the investigation and Stricoff did not return calls. Neither Bellone nor his spokesman responded to a request for comment.

According to New York State Board of Elections campaign filing records, Stricoff has been paid a total of $164,620.22 in wages, reimbursements and two "office" charges since June 2012. The most recent filing in mid-July indicates Stricoff was paid $43,713.59 to date this calendar year.

"I had an audit conducted of the town party filings after the July 15 filings," said Schaffer, who is also the Babylon supervisor.

"The audit was conducted over the last couple of weeks and there were some findings in there which, after consulting with an attorney, I was advised to turn the matter over to the Suffolk County district attorney's office."

Attorney Joe Conway did just that on Friday, Schaffer said, declining to say what sparked the audit. Conway could not be reached.

Town party committees get their authority from the county party under state election law. Asked if other Democratic town committee chairs in Suffolk receive compensation, Schaffer said: "No others do -- just Babylon." He declined to comment further.

Stricoff, 44, has been chief of the Babylon IDA for 12 years and chairman of the town Democratic Party since 2002.

A close ally and major fundraiser for Bellone, he was named in late July as the $155,000-a-year executive director of Suffolk's Industrial Development Agency after a unanimous vote and without screenings of any other candidates. He is due to start next week.

He earned $130,000 a year as head of the Babylon IDA, board member Pat Halpin said. Stricoff is due to relinquish that post when he starts in his county post. His two-year term as town party chair ends officially Monday.

Robert Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, did not return calls for comment.

In December, Bellone opposed fellow Babylon Democrat DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) being named presiding officer of the county legislature. Gregory later said Stricoff had attempted to make false charges that Gregory did not reside in the district.

The referral of the town party finances to the district attorney's office comes after political wrangling between Schaffer and Bellone.

Tensions between Schaffer and Bellone reached such levels by January, sources told Newsday, that Bellone was not returning Schaffer's calls.

Stricoff has described himself as the architect of efforts to raise Bellone's first $1 million in campaign funds prior to him formally announcing for county executive four years ago. Bellone ultimately raised $5 million. Stricoff told Newsday in July "there's nothing in the plans" for him to continue as a fundraiser for Bellone's anticipated re-election bid next year, but that the issue has not been discussed.

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