Former Babylon Town Democratic chairman Robert Stricoff withdrew from a...

Former Babylon Town Democratic chairman Robert Stricoff withdrew from a $155,000 a year job offer as executive director of Suffolk’s Industrial Development Agency in November 2014 amid an ongoing prosecutor’s probe. Credit: Steve Pfost

Robert Stricoff, who faces a probe by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota over possible misuse of Democratic Party funds, has decided not to take the $155,000-a-year job as executive director of the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency.

Stricoff Tuesday informed IDA board chairwoman Joanne Mineri, two days before a board-imposed deadline for Stricoff, the former chief executive of the Babylon IDA, to decide whether he was ready to start the new job.

"Basically, he said while he was excited about the opportunity offered to him, he would have to withdraw from the job," said Mineri, adding that he provided no reason for his decision.

Stricoff, 44, came under investigation by Spota in September. A Democratic Party audit had found that Stricoff was paid as much as $125,000 in unauthorized salary increases and benefits as Babylon Town Democratic chairman. That investigation is continuing, and a Spota spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

John Carman, Stricoff's attorney, said Stricoff withdrew from consideration for the county IDA because he has been offered a new position with a private company. Carman said the terms of employment had yet to be worked out and he could not disclose the name of the firm.

"This thing has been up in the air for a period of time and it made sense for him to move on," Carman said of the IDA job. "He's moving on because the investigation is open and he couldn't hang on without working."

County Executive Steve Bellone, a close political ally and boyhood friend of Stricoff's, said, "Bob's decision not to accept the IDA position is a loss for the IDA and the county. He has been one of our region's outstanding leaders in economic development helping to create thousands of jobs . . . [at] the Babylon IDA."

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, said, "I'm glad we have put this chapter behind us. I look forward to a prosperous 2015 with an engaged IDA."

Mineri said she will recommend to the IDA board Thursday that Tony Catapano, a veteran IDA deputy who has been serving as acting executive director, be named to the top post on a permanent basis.

Mineri also said she will recommend that Kelly Morris be named to Catapano's post as deputy executive director. Morris was recently hired as assistant to the commissioner at $81,745. Previously, Morris had been the $86,000-a-year executive director of the City of Glen Cove IDA, a job she took in 2009, Morris said.

Stricoff was originally named to the Suffolk IDA job in July, but asked to start in the new post Sept. 15. Once the probe became public, Stricoff said he would not take the county IDA job until all questions were answered.

"I'm glad to see he made the decision I thought he should have made back in September," said Schaffer. "It's no longer a county issue and it allows the IDA to come up with a new leader who will work with Steve Bellone on great economic development initiatives."

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