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Steve Levy passed the buck

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy delivers his 2011

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy delivers his 2011 State of the County address. (Feb. 15, 2011) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

For Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, it seems, the buck stops somewhere down the line.

Instead of taking full responsibility for failing to supervise implementation of a pilot program on a subject dear to his heart, illegal immigration, he suspended his public works commissioner for a week without pay.

The background is a long struggle in the county legislature in 2008 over a bill favored by Levy. It would have required 16,000-plus county contractors to verify employees' legal working status.

The compromise was a bill sponsored by Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor). It called for an 18-month pilot requiring the Department of Public Works' contractors to use E-Verify, a federal database that helps employers check employees' legal status. Levy signed it into law.

But somehow the pilot did not happen. And somehow Levy, renowned for his long hours and attention to the tiniest detail, did not notice. When it was brought to his attention, he was livid -- but someone else suffered.

The lesson for Levy should be: Governing is the hard part that comes after the news conference is over and the cameras leave.