The Suffolk legislature ordered county ethics officials late Wednesday night to deliver district attorney bureau chief John Scott Prudenti’s financial disclosure forms to its ways and means committee amid ongoing questions about the rental of his party boat to defense lawyers.
The legislature voted 14-4 to have ethics officials appear before the committee Oct. 14 with Prudenti’s documents and also explain at that time why they have refused to release the forms.
“We’re very pleased,” said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, a top aide to County Executive Steve Bellone. “Hopefully this will expedite the process of making this information available to the public.”
Legislators approved the order after Schneider earlier Wednesday pressed for immediate action to force the release of the forms to determine if Prudenti disclosed rentals of his party boat to defense attorneys he dealt with in court.
“We have an obligation to step in and look at what’s going on,” said Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) a frequent Bellone critic who sponsored the resolution. “It’s time for us to take charge.”
Bellone held a news conference Monday to press for the release of the documents. Later, John Gross, the ethics board’s attorney, said Bellone could force the release of the forms with a two-thirds majority vote by the legislature.
Last May, the county executive, who has called for the resignation of Prudenti’s boss, District Attorney Thomas Spota, asked the ethics board to determine if the bureau chief violated conflict of interest rules by renting his boat to those with whom he negotiated plea deals.
Before the vote, lawmakers spent 90 minutes Wednesday night wrangling over potential legal repercussions from releasing the documents.
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) opposed the rush to release them, warning they might only provide general information about income obtained from boat rentals without disclosing to whom Prudenti rented.
Bellone, however, has also raised the possibility that Prudenti failed to disclose any income from the party boat, which would be a violation of the county’s finance disclosure law. Spota has used the law successfully to prosecute others.
Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) chairwoman of the ways and means committee, broke the impasse by asking Trotta to change his resolution so that ethics officials would deliver Prudenti’s documents when they appear next week before the committee.