Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called on the Suffolk County ethics office Monday to immediately make public the financial disclosure statements of Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti to determine if he properly reported income from renting his boat to defense attorneys.
Bellone at a news conference also assailed District Attorney Thomas Spota for “not compelling” Prudenti to release the forms and Prudenti himself for not making the information public.
“Suffolk County law is clear on this,” Bellone said. “Financial disclosure forms are public documents. That is the reason why we fill them out in the first place, so the public ... can hold officials accountable.”
Spota in a statement called Bellone’s move “a political ploy.” Spota said a 2012 grand jury found that the ethics commission in the past had been “frequently used as a political sword to attack enemies of public officials” — leading to its abolition and replacement by a new board.
“Steve Bellone continues to issue press releases and hold press conferences in a blatant effort to influence the lawful decision of the commission,” Spota said. Prudenti did not respond to requests for comment made through the district attorney’s office.
Bellone held the news conference after learning that the ethics office had rejected requests to make Prudenti’s forms public. Newsday had requested those documents, and ethics board executive director Samantha Segal turned down the initial request as well as the newspaper’s appeal.
Newsday is weighing a further appeal in court, said Dina Sforza, Newsday’s counsel.
In denying Newsday’s request, Segall cited a federal exemption permitted for law enforcement agents, and said disclosure “would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Segall said the “requested record is currently under review and … deemed confidential.”
John Gross, the ethics board’s attorney, said the board “carefully reviewed” Newsday’s request and “applied the law.” If Bellone wants the documents, Gross said, he can ask the county legislature to release them with a two-thirds vote.
A spokesman said Bellone is reviewing “all options” to ensure compliance with the disclosure requirement but declined to be more specific.
Bellone last spring called for Spota’s immediate resignation so a replacement could elected in a November special election. Bellone said Spota had failed to investigate alleged criminal wrongdoing uncovered in wiretaps.
Spota said he had done nothing wrong, and accused Bellone of pursuing a vendetta because of prosecutions of his political allies.
In May, Bellone called for an ethics board investigation of whether Prudenti had a conflict of interest for renting his boat to defense attorneys with whom he dealt during plea deals for their clients.
Bellone now is seeking to determine whether Prudenti committed a crime by failing to disclose the rentals in his financial disclosure statements.
“The public has a significant interest in seeing those forms,” Bellone said.