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IDA hires ex-Suffolk aide who left over residency rule

A former $96,000-a-year Suffolk county executive aide, who left because he would not move to the county as required by the residency law, is taking a job at the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency, which is not bound by those rules.

Tim Ruggeri, a Brooklyn resident, was hired by the IDA after he left as a county executive public relations assistant Dec. 23, when his one-year legislative waiver to give him time to move to the county expired.

The IDA board in executive session last week informally authorized IDA executive director Anthony Manetta to fill the vacant $77,000-a-year marketing specialist position held until last August by Amy Illardo, daughter of Republican County Clerk Judith Pascale. The board did not vote publicly.

Manetta said he recruited Ruggeri, saying he "will be great asset . . . We're lucky to have him." He said Ruggeri will begin work in several days. Manetta added he had no concern over residency: "When we can hire talent to benefit county residents, we are going to do it."

Ruggeri's hiring comes after County Executive Steve Bellone tried late last year to loosen the residency rule so that New York City appointees such as Ruggeri could qualify for county jobs. But county lawmakers killed the bill in committee.

Manetta said Bellone played no role in the IDA's hiring of Ruggeri, but the county executive gave Ruggeri a "rave review" when asked about his tenure with the town and county.

Several lawmakers lashed out at the move. "Talk about subverting the intent of the legislature. You can't any more blatant than this," said Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset).

"The legislature has made it position clear that we should hire people locally for county positions," said Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), the majority leader. "I prefer to see the IDA maintain the same standard."

The agency is a public authority created through state legislation and adopted at the local level by the county legislature.The county residency law does not apply to the IDA because its staff members are not officially county employees and their jobs are not in the county budget. Board members, however, are appointed by county lawmakers.

The county residency law does not apply to the IDA because its staff members are not officially county employees and their jobs are not in the county budget. Board members, however, are appointed by county lawmakers.

Paul Sabatino, former legislative counsel, questioned the legality of Ruggeri’s hiring, saying the board must vote on any appointment or pass a resolution officially delegating Manetta to fill the job. He added that the county legislature could extend residency rules to the agency by local law.

William Wexler, IDA counsel, said the board would have voted if a new job had been created or extra money expended. But he said the agency had created the job earlier and budgeted funds to pay the salary, so Manetta was simply filling an existing position. Wexler added only the state legislature could impose residency rules on the local IDA.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) called Ruggeri “very talented” and said he has known him since he was a high school intern in Babylon. But, he added, “If people feel this move violates the spirit of the residency law, I’m willing to look at it.”

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