A Suffolk legislative committee on Wednesday approved legislation to retroactively grant three promotions that the daughter of a county legislator received since 2011 without required legislative approval.
Majority Democrats on the government operations committee backed the bill for Elaine Barraga, a $150,540-a-year bureau chief in the county attorney’s office and daughter of Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip). The full legislature is scheduled to consider the bill on Tuesday.
Republican Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) abstained from the vote, saying the county attorney’s office should have known the law.
“This is the county attorney’s office, charged with enforcing laws with this type of thing,” McCaffrey said. “It wasn’t once. Three times it happened.”
The county’s anti-nepotism law requires a legislative waiver when family members of elected officials and top county officials are hired or promoted in non-competitive jobs. If a family member is hired or promoted without a waiver, the county comptroller “shall seek reimbursement of all wages, salary or other forms of compensation” accrued, the law says.
But Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amitville) criticized the anti-nepotism law as “overkill.” Gregory said he would seek to roll back some requirements, such as an affadavit officials must file when family members are hired in non-competitive jobs.
County Attorney Dennis Brown said that without the new resolution, Elaine Barraga would have to pay back the difference between her original job’s pay of $89,314-a-year, which was approved by the legislature, and her unapproved positions. Brown said he had not calculated the accrued amount.
Brown took responsibility for failing to file disclosures after Barraga’sr two most recent promotions. “The buck stops with me,” he told lawmakers.
Brown called it an oversight.
“I don’t look at Elaine as a relative of another official,” he said. “I look at her as a peer.”
Thomas Barraga, a former Assemblyman who is serving his 12th and final year as a legislator under term limits, has been a cross-over vote for Bellone on controversial issues.
Elaine Barraga’s most recent promotion from deputy bureau chief to the bureau chief job came on Dec. 19, one day before her father provided the key 10th vote for a $300 mortgage fee increase that was backed by Bellone.
Barraga has said he played no role in his daughter’s promotion and never spoke to Bellone or his aides about it.
Neither he nor his daughter responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
Brown said after the meeting that one of the reasons for Elaine Barraga’s most recent promotion was that he wanted to avoid losing her to Suffolk Community College.
The college announced this week that it had picked Ashley Pope for the newly created deputy counsel job, which pays $131,191 a year, over Barraga.