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What Levy, Spota don't say may tell a lot

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and District Attorney

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and District Attorney Thomas J. Spota. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein, 2009

What exactly did Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy do?

The statements from District Attorney Thomas Spota and Levy lead to one conclusion: That the county executive did something wrong and possibly corrupt.

In the bowels of Levy's statement -- the only public explanation from the usually loquacious official -- the county executive plants one reference to "questions" being raised about "fundraising through my political campaign." What does that mean?

Levy goes on to accept responsibility for -- whatever -- since it "occurred under my watch." What?

Levy owes constituents, who helped the former state and county legislator become a formidable force in state, local and national politics, a better explanation than that.

And if the usually plain-spoken Levy can't summon the gumption to step up now, he ought to step down before his term slides to an ignoble end in November.

Whatever he did, it was enough for Levy, who'd sooner spit than back away from a fight, to forfeit a guaranteed third term.

Enough for famously frugal Levy to hand over $4 million of his political war chest, and to cooperate with Spota's office in its ongoing corruption investigation.

In a statement, Spota, who was not talking to reporters, either, said that Levy's action comes after a 16-month investigation by the DA's government corruption bureau.

He also said that he was satisfied that Levy's actions "resolve the investigation in the best interests of the citizens of Suffolk County."

Spota explained his decision to allow Levy to finish his term, citing "the need for stability in government in these difficult economic times."

He said Levy did not profit personally. And that he believed Levy's actions -- whatever they were -- did not "compromise his ability to govern."

Not so.

It's obviously a deal between Levy and Spota that allows a tainted public official to remain in office. And that -- along with a lack of needed transparency -- leaves Suffolk with a lame duck who is as unpopular in many power circles as he is popular with the masses.

It increases tension in the Police Department, where Levy's police commissioner, Richard Dormer, is unpopular as well. It also increases tension -- if that's even possible -- between Levy and a legislature already in open revolt.

It makes the up-to-now steady leadership in Suffolk as fragile as the leadership in NIFA-controlled Nassau County, which is not good for a region struggling to break free of a recession.

But worst of all, it saddles Suffolk residents with a top elected official who, reading between the lines of Spota's statement, may be corrupt.

That's not fair to residents or to Levy, whose job remains to see Suffolk through cuts in state aid and other significant fiscal challenges.

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