61° Good Afternoon
61° Good Afternoon

What a spectacle of a day on Long Island

Dean Skelos, former majority leader of the New

Dean Skelos, former majority leader of the New York State Senate, arrives at federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, May 12, 2016, for sentencing on his corruption conviction. Credit: Craig Ruttle

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Even by the standards of Long Islanders inured to the steady drumbeat of public corruption, Thursday provided a spectacle the likes of which the region has not seen.
Shortly after noon — high noon, indeed, with no appearance yet by anyone remotely resembling Gary Cooper — two dramas played out on stages about 50 miles apart.

In a courtroom in Manhattan, former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre was sentenced to 5 years in prison for using his power and his position to land a series of jobs for his son, Adam, who received a 6 1/2 year term.

About the same time, outside and inside the Suffolk County district attorney’s office in Hauppauge, the county’s top two elected officials launched furious broadsides at one another centered on allegations of corruption.

County Executive Steve Bellone demanded that District Attorney Thomas Spota resign, citing Newsday stories that disclosed that Spota’s office had uncovered possible crimes via wiretaps but then did not prosecute those activities. Bellone decried what he called the “culture of corruption” in Spota’s office.
Spota responded almost immediately, saying that Bellone’s attacks were personally motivated and that Bellone has a “vendetta” against him because Spota had successfully prosecuted people close to Bellone. Spota sought to dismiss Newsday’s detailed and well-sourced report, calling it “fundamentally flawed.”
Then Spota dropped his own bombshell — that Bellone had other motives for wanting him out, intimating it had to do with “documents” Spota has sent to the state Board of Elections for investigation.
In the midst of the charges and counter-charges, five Suffolk Republican legislators publicly called for the resignations of Spota AND Bellone, both of whom are Democrats. Call it politics, if you like, but it was not an ennobling moment.
And shortly after, Bellone held another news conference to condemn Spota’s defense and attack anew. And on and on it undoubtedly will go.
Long Islanders have grown cynical about corruption. Can you blame us? We’ve seen it at all levels of government — state, county, town and village. We don’t like it and we want it punished, the polls clearly indicate that. But based on our collective years of experience, culminating in Thursday’s extraordinary high-noon crescendo, we also have come to expect corruption, even extraordinary instances of it.
That perhaps is the saddest legacy of politics on Long Island.

This is featured in The Point, the editorial board's newsletter for insiders. To subscribe, click here.