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Did Suffolk get the best to lead police force? It’s hard to know

John Barry, who was lead federal investigator in

John Barry, who was lead federal investigator in the prosecution of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, is in line to become Suffolk County's deputy police commissioner. A waiver would allow him to collect his NYPD pension as well as his Suffolk salary. Credit: SCPD

John Barry might be the most qualified person in the nation to be Suffolk County’s deputy police commissioner. His comfort level with new police Commissioner Tim Sini and his experience might even justify the waiver that will allow Barry to collect an $86,000 annual pension from his 20 years with the NYPD along with $150,000 a year in salary from Suffolk. But we’ll never know, because rather than making a legitimate attempt to do a national search, Sini and County Executive Steve Bellone phoned in the effort that was required by state law.

Barry, 46, worked with former federal prosecutor Sini in the U.S. attorney’s office. He was the lead investigator in the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. By all indications he’s top-notch.

But in New York, retirees younger than 65 are allowed to earn more than $30,000 per year in a municipal job and collect a state pension only if they get a waiver. Such waivers are granted only when, according to the state comptroller’s office,, “participating employers make reasonable efforts to find qualified, nonretired workers to fill vacancies first, and to show why Section 211 waivers are absolutely needed to hire people who are already retired.”

Suffolk’s search was conducted with help-wanted ads in the Smithtown News and the Smithtown Messenger.

So here’s the score card for Bellone in trying to clean up the mess he made by appointing James Burke as his chief of police: Sini was made commissioner, with essentially no search, after he ran a losing race for the county legislature at the behest of Bellone and Suffolk Democratic leader Richard Schaffer. And the deputy police commissioner, hand-picked to fill in for the commissioner’s lack of real policing experience, was chosen with essentially no search, in violation of the spirit but not the letter of the law. — The editorial board