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New bill would impose residency requirements on Suffolk IDA hires

Suffolk County Legis. John Kennedy, at the legislative

Suffolk County Legis. John Kennedy, at the legislative board meeting in Hauppauge on June. 4, 2013. He proposes a rule that forces the county Industrial Development Agency board to only hire employees who live in Suffolk County. Credit: James Carbone

The minority leader of the Suffolk Legislature has filed a resolution aimed at forcing the county Industrial Development Agency board to only hire employees who live in Suffolk County.

The measure by Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) comes after IDA officials disclosed last week that they were going to hire Tim Ruggeri, a former spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone. Ruggeri, who will work as a $77,000-a-year marketing specialist, lives in Brooklyn and left his county job in late December because he did not want to move to Suffolk to comply with residency rules.

Ruggeri resigned after county legislators rebuffed Bellone's bid to loosen the residency rule to include New York City residents. The IDA, a state-created authority, has no residency rules.

Kennedy said his resolution is designed to "remind" the IDA board that "legislative policy is first and foremost and always to hire from Suffolk County."

They may have forgotten, or may have been confused but this will help remind them." Kennedy's bill would require all new IDA board members to agree that they will only hire individuals who live in Suffolk. County lawmakers appoint the seven members of the IDA board, who have no terms and can be replaced at any time.Kennedy said he expects bipartisan support for his proposal and he has sent a copy of the proposal to all IDA board members and hoped they would reconsider the hiring.

Anthony Manetta, IDA executive director, and IDA counsel William Wexler declined to comment on Kennedy's proposal because they had not seen it. Wexler has said that only the State Legislature can impose a residency requirement on the IDA.

Kennedy said Suffolk lawmakers in the past have imposed rules on state-created entities, noting requirements that the IDA board, Suffolk Water Authority and Suffolk Off-Track Betting officials file financial disclosure statements with the county.

The IDA board in executive session informally authorized Manetta to fill the marketing job, empty since August, but the board never took a public vote.

Kennedy also questioned whether Manetta has the power to hire, saying that like school boards, only the IDA board can hire employees, a stand Wexler has disputed. "It's not delegatable,"Kennedy said.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he has not seen the bill, but expects lawmakers may be split. While the board "should give a preference to Suffolk residents ... I hate to see a policy created over one person who is talented and see him snared in partisan fighting," Gregory said.

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