ALBANY – Republican Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta sparred with Democrats on Thursday over the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions made by the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.
Less than two weeks before the Nov. 2 election, Trotta’s latest broadside against the PBA and its political influence through donations was aimed at Democratic District Attorney Tim Sini, who is seeking reelection against Republican Ray Tierney, and Democratic County Executive Steven Bellone.
Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a retired Suffolk County police officer who also is seeking reelection, has contended for years that the PBA has transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues collected from members without their consent and made political contributions beyond legal limits. He made the contention again at a news conference Wednesday in Hauppauge.
Spokesmen for the PBA, Sini and Bellone countered that the contributions are legal and reflect the union’s backing of candidates who support law enforcement and the union’s members.
"This is nothing more than another political hit piece," said Noel DiGerolamo, president of the PBA. He said the union’s political activity is vetted by its attorneys and accountants. "These allegations are false."
Trotta’s statement was a disgusting and "desperate attempt to attack the police," stated Sini’s campaign manager, Logan Gershon.
Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said Trotta is "shamefully spreading falsehoods."
The Suffolk County PBA Political Action Committee also contributes significantly to Republican campaigns, according to state Board of Elections records. The contributions include more than $30,000 to the Suffolk County Republican Committee since 2014. Additional contributions in the last five years include $3,000 to former Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport); $2,000 to the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee; and $20,000 to the Town of Islip Republican Committee.
In March, Newsday reported that the Suffolk County PBA had become one of Long Island’s most powerful political forces, contributing millions of dollars to campaigns in direct spending or through a related group the union controls despite restrictions on campaign spending, according to records and political financing experts.
Trotta has contended that dues are being used to support politicians without the union members’ approval while giving the union an outsized influence in county government spending.
"They are giving out contracts," Trotta said at the Hauppauge news conference. "They are taking money from the employees involuntarily and using it on candidates (the members) don’t want to support. And there is no mechanism for them to get out of it. Period."
He said election laws require union members to specifically approve campaign contributions before agreeing to contribute their dues toward candidates and parties. Trotta said the PBA hasn’t done that.
Trotta said he has brought his concern to the two most recent Suffolk County police commissioners and state Attorney General Letitia James. On Thursday Trotta released a letter he sent to Breon Peace, the new U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. But Trotta said no action has been taken.
A Peace spokesman declined to comment. James’ office did not respond to requests for comment.