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Walsh re-elected as Suffolk Conservative leader

Suffolk County Conservative Committee Chairman Edward M. Walsh

Suffolk County Conservative Committee Chairman Edward M. Walsh speaks to fellow conservatives at the Hyatt Hotel Grand Ballroom in Hauppauge on Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Suffolk Conservative chairman Edward Walsh was re-elected to a two-year term Wednesday night at the party's convention in Hauppauge.

Walsh, who is facing a federal criminal investigation and an effort by the county sheriff to fire him from his job as a lieutenant in the corrections department, was elected on a voice vote, with only one delegate objecting.

Walsh thanked supporters and pointed to the party's success at winning town and judicial offices.

"We're loaded on the bench," he said. "If along the way -- and I'm the perfect example -- we will get punched in the nose, that's the way life is."

Former Smithtown highway superintendent Dan Donnelly stood up shortly after the meeting began at 6:35 p.m., and called for individual voting, saying he wanted to see who would vote for a person convicted of "a sex offense." Donnelly was referring to Walsh's sentencing in 1984, while a student at the University of Maryland, to 12 months' probation for a misdemeanor sex offense.

Walsh declined to address Donnelly's comment. Party members then surrounded Donnelly and held up "Team Walsh" signs in front of his face.

Walsh's attorney, Frank Tinari, has said the sex offense charge "was ultimately dismissed, sealed and expunged," and Walsh has served without incident in the sheriff's department for 24 years.

Walsh has held the powerful party post since 2006. Suffolk has the largest Conservative Party in the state, with more than 22,000 members. Walsh, as chairman, is courted by both Democratic and Republican candidates for his endorsements, and has an active role in picking judges.

Walsh is facing departmental charges by Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, also a Conservative. While he hasn't publicly revealed the findings of his investigation, DeMarco has moved to fire Walsh. Newsday has reported that Walsh was a target in an investigation into sheriff's employees charging the county for hours that they did not work.

The FBI is investigating. The probe was confirmed by Walsh's attorney, William Wexler.

Walsh has denied any wrongdoing and is fighting the termination.

Also Wednesday night, Babylon Democrats elected Peter Casserly as their town party chairman to replace Robert Stricoff. Stricoff is facing a district attorney's probe in the wake of a Democratic Party audit that, according to sources, found that he may have been overpaid as much as $125,000.

Casserly's election came on a unanimous voice vote at the Democrats' county convention at which Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer, 50, was re-elected to his eighth two-year term as Suffolk Democratic chairman.

Schaffer, who nominated Casserly, said Casserly has "a wealth of experience" and works well with party officials. "I've come to rely on him over the years, not only on the governmental side, but also in politics."

A $350-a-head town party fundraiser organized before the probe to honor Stricoff's years as leader, drew more than 180 party supporters Tuesday night, but Stricoff did not attend and his name was never mentioned.

With Rick Brand

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