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Suffolk Democratic legislators reject creation of committee to investigate law enforcement

Suffolk County Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory

Suffolk County Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory is seen in Hauppauge on May 20, 2015. Credit: James Escher / James Escher

Suffolk Democratic lawmakers rejected a proposal to form a special committee with subpoena powers that would investigate county law enforcement in the midst of federal corruption probes.

Public Safety Committee members voted 7-2 on Thursday to remove the proposal from future agendas.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the special committee could interfere with a federal probe, including the pending trial of former Chief of Department James Burke for allegedly beating a suspect and coordinating a cover-up.

Bill sponsor Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) called the reasoning a “cop-out.” The committee, he said, would not investigate criminal acts but instead look at procedures and rules at the police department and district attorney’s office that are inadequate or weren’t followed during allegations against Burke.

“It’s our job to find out what went wrong,” Trotta said.

Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) voted against tabling the bill.

Cilmi said Democrats on the legislature didn’t want to draw attention to the corruption in the county.

“They have run Suffolk County for the past 10 years, and don’t want to do anything that calls attention to either the corruption or the lack of oversight that has allowed the corruption to exist,” he said.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-East Setauket), who made the motion to table the proposal subject to call, said the legislature could open an investigation once the federal government’s is complete.

“The legislature is working on reforms even as we speak. So finding out the dirty details of what happened can wait a little bit,” she said.

The proposal won’t be voted on or considered unless there’s a motion by a Public Safety member and vote by the Public Safety Committee.

The proposed panel would have been made up of three legislators selected by the presiding officer, a Democrat, and three by the minority leader, a Republican. The chairperson would be selected by the presiding officer. It would have had $100,000 to pay for investigative staff.

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