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Long IslandSuffolk

Ethics panel: New Legis. Martinez can't keep school job, too

Suffolk's Board of Ethics has found that newly elected Monica Martinez cannot serve as a county legislator starting Jan. 1 and keep her full-time job as a $117,000-a-year assistant middle school principal under the county's anti-double-dipping law for elected officials.

"Retention of the assistant principal position while an elected official would be prohibited," the board's advisory opinion said. "Absent any showing . . . of regularly performing direct instructional duties at her school district to the students, the board finds the exemption for teachers to be inapplicable."

Martinez received the six-page advisory opinion by certified mail late Friday. The board made its decision Wednesday night at a closed-door meeting in Yaphank.

"I respect the decision of the ethics commission and will abide by it," Martinez said in a statement through a spokesman. "I will immediately seek a leave of absence from my position with the school district and assess my options, legal and otherwise, going forward."

Joseph Bond, superintendent of Brentwood schools, where Martinez works, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Martinez won election as a $98,260-a-year county lawmaker with heavy financial assistance from County Executive Steve Bellone and other party officials, defeating veteran Democratic lawmaker Rick Montano, who often clashed with Bellone. During the campaign, Martinez maintained she planned to work both as a lawmaker and a school administrator, which would earn her $215,260 annually. A Bellone spokeswoman had no comment on the Martinez decision last night.

Bellone last month filed a bill that would have rolled back part of the double-dipping ban to add an exemption for all school, fire and library district employees in addition to the existing one for public school and college teachers. Bellone later withdrew the bill at Martinez's request.

Martinez said the law did not apply to her and violated state law. She said the definition of "teacher" in the state education code includes "all full-time members of the teacher or supervisor staff."

However, the ethics board found that schools are a "subdivision of the state" and are covered by the law. They also found "an assistant principal does not perform functions normally associated with the term 'teacher' " and that Martinez "would be in violation . . . if she were to retain her position as assistant principal."

Critics say they do not expect that a legal challenge would be successful.

"My sense is there was never any ambiguity and the law was designed specifically to be very clear," said Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset).

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