A new complaint filed in federal court by Brookhaven Conservatives accuses County Chairman Edward Walsh of reimbursing himself for expenses without approval from the county's executive committee.
The Suffolk County Conservative Chairman's Club "housekeeping" committee spent $41,711 between January and July for "Walsh's personal benefit," according to an amended complaint filed in federal court Nov. 24. Vincent Messina Jr., the attorney for Walsh and the Conservative Party, said the complaint "completely lacks merit."
The expenses cited in the complaint include $1,117 a month for a GMC Yukon, as well as payments for auto insurance, phones, gas and unspecified office expenses, according to the complaint, which cited financial disclosures made with the New York State Board of Elections. They also include a portion of the $65,000-a-year stipend that the county executive committee authorized for Walsh in 2009.
Brookhaven Town Conservatives had sued Walsh in federal court in October after the county executive committee voted to take away their power to endorse candidates. The lawsuit said Walsh had tried to "intimidate and coerce" the town party.
The decision on the town party's power to endorse came after Brookhaven Conservative co-chair Kenneth Auerbach of Port Jefferson unsuccessfully tried to rally votes to challenge Walsh as county chairman before a September county convention. Walsh was overwhelmingly re-elected.
Messina requested the case be dismissed in a letter sent Monday to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco.
The letter said the lawsuit is over a political party's internal dispute, which is outside the court's jurisdiction. "Among the grievances described in the complaint are those as petty as one taking issue with defendant's alleged requests to coordinate the scheduling of fundraisers so as to avoid conflicts," Messina wrote.
The Suffolk County Conservative Party Executive Committee in 2009 authorized Walsh to get a $65,000-a-year stipend, according to the amended complaint, but never voted on the car or expenses. Tom Teresky, the Huntington lawyer for Brookhaven Town Conservatives, said there is no physical office for the Suffolk County Conservative Party that his clients know about.
Frank Tinari, executive vice chairman of the county Conservative Party, said Walsh reduced his stipend to make up for the car payment. "He's out every night meeting with political leaders in the county," said Tinari, who is also Huntington Conservative chairman. "If he's driving around, any expenses, if it's related to party business, I don't see any issue with that at all."
Walsh is being investigated by federal law enforcement, and is suspected of collecting wages for work he did not perform. Sheriff Vincent DeMarco has moved to fire him from his job as a correction lieutenant. Walsh is fighting the termination and his attorney on the federal case has denied the allegations against him.