Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Thursday that outgoing Babylon Democratic chairman Robert Stricoff should not take the post of executive director of the county Industrial Development Agency in light of an audit that found he may been overpaid by as much as $125,000 as party leader.
"I think the findings raise enough questions about Mr. Stricoff's capabilities that his time would be better spent dealing with his own situation," Schaffer said.
That audit prompted Schaffer last week to turn it over to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota for possible criminal investigation.
Peter Casserly, who is slated to succeed Stricoff as party leader Wednesday, said the audit, conducted by the town party, found "an accounting mess." Party sources say Stricoff increased his $20,000 party salary several times to $60,000 without approval of the executive board. He also took an unauthorized $20,000 bonus and payment for personal expenses, the sources said.
Anthony M. LaPinta, who said he has been retained as Stricoff's attorney, declined Thursday to comment on the statements by Schaffer, who also serves as Babylon Town supervisor. A spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone, a longtime friend and political ally of Stricoff, also declined to comment.
Stricoff had been scheduled to take the $155,000 IDA post Monday.
On Wednesday, IDA chairwoman Joanne Mineri said Stricoff told the board he would not begin work until questions are resolved.
Suffolk County Legis. John M. Kennedy (R-Nesconset), the minority leader and a candidate for county comptroller, first called on the IDA board to reverse its July decision to hire Stricoff.
"The Suffolk County IDA will seek all the findings of the district attorney's investigation to inform and determine any future actions the board may wish to take regarding Mr. Stricoff's employment," Mineri said in a statement last night.
In the meantime, she said, Tony Catapano will remain as acting executive director.
The county IDA board voted unanimously to hire Stricoff without advertising the position or interviewing any other contenders. The board defended its decision, citing Stricoff's 12-year record as CEO of the Babylon IDA, where he closed $880 million in deals that created 5,200 jobs and retained 5,306.