Suffolk lawmakers Tuesday passed what Presiding Officer William Lindsay called "sweeping ethics reforms" that he said will help restore faith in county government following County Executive Steve Levy turning over his $4.3 million campaign fund to Suffolk prosecutors.

Legislators, by a 16-1 vote, replaced the county's embattled ethics commission with an ethics board. The ethics commission came under fire after refusing to provide legislators detailed records about its operations last year.

Lawmakers had launched a probe of the commission after disclosures that it gave Levy permission to file state financial disclosure forms rather than the county form. Legislators at that time questioned whether the commission was consistent in how it issued opinions and responded to requests for the release of information. Lawmakers suspended the probe of the commission in March in deference to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota's ongoing investigation of Levy's campaign finances.

Lindsay, (D-Holbrook), said the ethics commission resisted the legislature's attempts to see if it was acting fairly and "never reported back to this body. Never."

Legis. Thomas Barraga, (R-West Islip), voted against the new panel, objecting to a provision allowing the legislature, by a two-thirds vote, to see confidential requests for advisory opinions. Barraga said county employees and officials should be able to privately seek guidance about whether a scenario is ethical.

The new five-member ethics board will be made up of two members appointed by the county executive, and one each by the presiding officer, the majority leader and minority leader. Outgoing ethics commission chairman Thomas Nolan was unavailable for comment.

The board will advise public officials and employees on ethics matters, review financial disclosure statements and conduct investigations and hearings on ethics violations and impose penalties.

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