Citing his "conscience," Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki has blocked County Executive Steve Levy from putting a new $61,726-a-year photographer on the payroll amid the county's budget crunch.

"It's unconscionable," said Sawicki, after sending a memo Monday to Levy, who recently became a fellow Republican. "Someone has to stand up for the taxpayer."

Mark Smith, Levy spokesman, called Sawicki's move to stop the hiring of former Newsday photographer Daniel Goodrich "feeble," "blatantly illegal" and retaliation for Levy revealing that the comptroller "hid sources of income from the public eye."

However, Sawicki, in his memo, said he balked at the hiring because a "personal photographer has to be considered a luxury" after Levy sent layoff notices to 900 county employees in August and axed 293 positions in his proposed 2011 budget. "For those photo opportunities that are 'priceless,' " said Sawicki, who's been mentioned as a potential Levy GOP primary foe next year. "I am confident . . . your public relations staff is more than capable of taking a photograph."

Sawicki said his county financial disclosure statements fully listed his wife's salary and where she worked. But he said the county ethics commission approved his request to redact the name and address of a private nursing home where she works, to protect her privacy in light of critical audits his office often conducts.

Smith said the county charter gives Sawicki no power to stop Goodrich's hiring, but said the administration will ask him to re-examine his stand before deciding whether to sue. Sawicki said the charter gives him the authority to approve all invoices, payrolls and claims to determine their "regularity, legality and correctness."

Levy took fire on another front Tuesday as Working Families lawmaker Kate Browning, Republican Legis. Ed Romaine and Yaphank civic leaders criticized him for including in his budget $12 million in "speculative" revenue from a land sale.

The sale has not yet been approved by lawmakers and now is undergoing an environmental study expected to last a year. Levy denied the revenue were speculative, adding lawmakers would have to make some "tough decisions."

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