The Bellone administration shaved Suffolk's layoff list by another 42 names Friday, promising to restore highly aided and critical jobs by creating interim positions that will last for the remainder of the year.
Ben Zwirn, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's top legislative aide, disclosed the restorations at the outset of an often-testy, four-hour budget committee meeting during which the Democratic majority rebuffed a dozen Republican measures to restore about 75 jobs. Aided positions are largely funded by state and federal grants.
Bellone aides said the county executive, a Democrat, agreed to restore the jobs -- 33 of them in the Health Department -- after lengthy negotiations with majority lawmakers. Several lawmakers also said Bellone is open to further talks on saving another 10 public works jobs and three sewer jobs.
This fourth round of restorations now lowers the number of layoffs -- originally slated at 470 -- down to about 270. Among the jobs saved include seven public health nurses, six workers in the Woman Infants and Childrens' program, three workers in the Office of Aging, and a half dozen public works employees.
The creation of interim jobs has been allowed since 1973 through a joint sign-off of the county executive and the presiding officer, but Bellone aides did not produce an executed copy of any agreement. Because Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) is recovering from an operation, his chief of staff, Terry Pearsall, would sign in his absence. But late Friday he said he has seen no documents yet.
Later Jon Schneider, Bellone's deputy, said the agreement would be signed next week.
Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) lambasted the last-minute proposal as suspicious, saying interim positions in the past used funding from other budgeted vacant positions -- something nearly nonexistent in the current budget.
"This is a very questionable legal procedure . . . This amounts to a budget amendment which requires a legislative vote," Romaine said. "This is a legislature, not a body that nods its head at executive decrees."
In response, Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon), the budget committee chair, accused Romaine of "petty hypocrisy" and said he was "dead wrong." He also attacked Republicans for using "invalid offsets that don't exist" -- $1.5 million budgeted for police cars, which was put aside after the county decided to bond the purchase and use the savings to ease the $530 million deficit.
Republican efforts to restore sewer inspector jobs also was tabled. Democrats said the administration now plans to give the state the job of issuing sewer permits and inspecting sewer plants.