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Suffolk bill would let sheriff fill positions

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one of the four pods at the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. (March 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A bill to permit Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco to invoke for the first time a local law allowing countywide elected officials to hire staff over objections of the county executive was filed late Tuesday so he could fill 18 jobs ranging from captain to investigator.

But Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) has called a meeting between DeMarco and County Executive Steve Bellone for Friday to head off a confrontation over the issue.

Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, filed the measure as a late starter Tuesday night after sheriff's officials testified last week that they have asked Bellone 11 times in the last 18 months to fill the jobs, left vacant by retirement and promotions.

Kennedy said the sheriff is not looking for new positions, only to fill jobs already funded in the budget.

"You need people to do the job, you need supervisors to make sure the job is done and you need bodies to make sure that overtime doesn't explode," he said. "They show just a profound lack of understanding of the day-to-day operation of government."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider criticized Kennedy for undertaking "an endless crusade to lard up the payroll in every way he can." He said the administration wants a tight rein on hiring to close the county budget gap, and "very intense scrutiny" is needed on any new request.

Administration officials say Nassau has only 50 deputies, who cost $3.5 million, compared with Suffolk's 256, who cost $20.9 million.

They add Nassau's deputies made only $855,000 in overtime last year compared with $7 million for Suffolk deputies.

"We have some very serious questions," said Schneider, adding that "there may be some reasonable requests here."

Under a county law approved in 2010, a process was set up to allow Suffolk's countywide elected officials to fill budgeted positions as long as there are appropriations to cover the spending.

The county executive has 10 days to reject the hiring request on any of seven fiscal or prodecural grounds including inadequate appropriations, a court order, public emergency, a federal ban, a budget deficiency or a budget freeze.

But the county legislature by resolution can override the county executive.

Up to now, officials say the executive and various countywide elected officials have worked out differences by negotiation.

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