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Bellone to end move to change double-dipping law

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about his

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about his just-released county budget at his office in the Dennision Buiding in Hauppauge. (Sept. 20, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

An incoming Suffolk lawmaker does not believe she needs a change to the county's double-dipping ban to hold two public posts.

Legis.-elect Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), who stands to earn a potential combined salary of $215,000 next year, said Friday that she has asked Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone to pull his bid to tweak the law that, as written, appears to restrict Suffolk elected officials from holding any other taxpayer-funded job but teacher.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Friday that the administration will honor Martinez's request to withdraw its bill seeking to address the county's ban on dual public pay.

"Legislator-elect Martinez has requested an opinion from the Board of Ethics and she'll abide by that opinion," Schneider said. "I think it's clear now that she's not asking for any special treatment."

The controversial bill -- tailored to let Martinez keep her job as an assistant principal at a middle school after taking county office in January -- was set for a public hearing at Tuesday's legislature meeting.

"I never asked for a resolution to clarify this law, and I am requesting the resolution be withdrawn because it has created the appearance that the law is being changed," Martinez said. "This could not be further from the truth."

Martinez said she has sought a formal opinion from Suffolk's ethics board, but she believes that the 2011 county law in question exempts any school, library or fire district employee, and not just teachers or professors.

She pointed to the definition of "teacher" in state education code, which includes "all full-time members of the teaching and supervisory staff of each school district," including "principals," and noted previous comments from the county's legislative counsel, George Nolan, who stated that the double-dipping law isn't meant to apply to schools.

As an administrator at East Middle School in Brentwood, Martinez earns $117,000 a year. She will earn $98,260 annually as a legislator. Regardless of how the ethics board rules, Martinez said she plans on taking a leave of absence from her school job as of June 30, meaning she would earn less than the potential total of $215,000.

But if the ethics board rules that Martinez is in violation of county law, she said she will take an immediate leave of absence and also sue to challenge the county law as "unconstitutional and improperly written."

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who has criticized Martinez's claims that she can provide sufficient attention to both full-time public roles, said that "people should be enraged" over her stance. "It's extremely disappointing that this is the level one individual would [take to] enter the position of legislator," he said.

With Bellone's support, Martinez was elected last month to represent the 9th Legislative District in Islip. The sister of a close Bellone ally, she ousted longtime Legis. Rick Montano, a Democrat often critical of the Bellone administration.

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