District Attorney Thomas Spota said Tuesday he won't look into allegations against Suffolk Sheriff's Lt. Edward Walsh while the FBI investigates the case but defended the ability of his office to handle public corruption cases.
"The FBI has decided to take the case, which is fine with me," Spota told reporters in Hauppauge. "Believe me, the district attorney's office has plenty of work and plenty of investigations. This is not breaking my heart that the FBI is doing this investigation."
Spota, at a news conference on a drug ring bust, said he "never will shy away" from prosecuting anyone who has committed a crime.
Asked if he would wait until after the federal investigation to do anything with Walsh, Spota replied, "Yes."
Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said Monday that he had turned over his office's investigation into Walsh, chairman of the Suffolk Conservative Party, to the FBI. DeMarco has declined to specify the reason for the charges, but Newsday has reported that Walsh has been under investigation since February, accused of charging the county for hours that he didn't work.
Walsh, who received $163,044 in base pay and $51,479 in overtime last year, is contesting his termination and has chosen to have a hearing officer selected by the county consider his case. Civil service rules allow Walsh to collect pay while the case is being decided.
Walsh has been a powerful figure in Suffolk politics since he became Conservative chairman eight years ago. Spota, a Democrat, has been re-elected three times with Conservative backing.
When DeMarco moved to terminate Walsh on July 15, DeMarco said he planned to forward the departmental charges to Spota. But sheriff's investigators told their counterparts in the district attorney's office on Thursday that the FBI had taken over the investigation, DeMarco said Monday.
DeMarco declined to comment Tuesday
Spota also responded Tuesday to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's statement Monday that Spota should appoint a special prosecutor because of Walsh's political connections.
"I have absolutely no qualms, if the person commits a crime, we are going to investigate it and we are going to prosecute. If the person, based on our investigation, did not commit a crime, then we are not going to prosecute," Spota said.
He said speculating now about a special prosecutor is premature. "We don't know what the outcome of the FBI [investigation] will be or whether it will to go to the U.S. attorney's office. That's entirely up to them," he said.