Edward Walsh, chairman of the Suffolk County Conservative Party, was suspended Wednesday for 30 days without pay from his job as a lieutenant in the county's sheriff's department, sheriff chief of staff Michael Sharkey said.
Sharkey declined to say what prompted Walsh's suspension, but said Sheriff Vincent DeMarco's investigation into whether correction employees billed the county for time they didn't work is ongoing. Newsday has reported that Walsh was among at least three sheriff's employees who are under investigation.
A decision is pending on whether to bring departmental charges against Walsh to terminate him, according to a source with knowledge of the inquiry. The internal affairs investigation will be forwarded to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota's office, the source said.
Walsh made $163,044 in base pay and $51,479 in overtime in 2013 working in the sheriff's office, according to county records.
State campaign disclosure forms show Walsh got more than $62,000 in pay in 2013 as Conservative Party chairman. He has led the county party for eight years. Suffolk has the largest Conservative Party in the state, with more than 22,000 members. Walsh, as chairman, is courted by Democratic and Republican candidates for his endorsements and also helps pick judges.
DeMarco is a Conservative Party member.
Walsh, 48, of East Islip, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. His attorney, Frank Tinari, did not respond to a request for comment.
Walsh told Newsday previously that he works as a liaison between the courts and Suffolk's jails and investigates complaints, gangs and other security issues in the jails.
Suspension 'won't sit well'
Michael D. O'Donohoe, a longtime Conservative committeeman and former legislator, said Walsh's suspension will continue to raise questions among party members. "The fact he was suspended won't sit well with the rank and file Conservatives," said O'Donohoe, the Suffolk commissioner of jurors.
Walsh also has come under fire from Suffolk County Democrats, and legislative allies cited Walsh's past legal issues in questioning how he could become a high-ranking official at the county jail.
Newsday and News 12 Long Island reported June 5 that Walsh was arrested in 1984 while he was a University of Maryland student and sentenced to 12 months' probation in a misdemeanor sex offense. He did not disclose the Maryland arrest on his application to the sheriff's department, as is required.
Tinari said in a letter earlier this month the Maryland charge "was ultimately dismissed, sealed and expunged." Tinari, also the Huntington Town Conservative Party leader, said Walsh's initial application "was thoroughly vetted and he has served without incident for 24 years."
A 1990 letter from sheriff's Lieutenant Investigator Frank Jenkins said that in 1988 the New York City Police Department found Walsh "not qualified due to an unauthorized substance in his system during his health examination."
Didn't submit prescription
The drug for which Walsh tested positive, phenobarbital, is a central nervous system depressant with a potential for abuse, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Walsh said he doesn't use recreational drugs and had been prescribed the phenobarbital but couldn't remember why.
Jenkins wrote that Walsh had "the opportunity to submit a valid prescription to overturn his disqualification" for the NYPD job but was "unable to produce one." Walsh said he missed the deadline to submit his prescription. Walsh said he failed to appeal the decision because he was young.
Walsh was arrested on felony criminal mischief charges in 1989, less than a year before he applied to work for the sheriff's office. He pleaded guilty to a violation.
Two years ago, Suffolk County law enforcement officials raided a Medford business and found illegal gambling, drugs and more than two dozen people, including Walsh. Although he was not among those arrested, Walsh's presence amid illegal activity sparked an investigation. The results have never been made public.
Walsh noted that he was neither handcuffed nor arrested. "It's absolutely not illegal to play cards," he said.