Legis. Robert Trotta.

Legis. Robert Trotta. Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

Tenacious Trotta redoubles efforts

When Suffolk County Legis. Rob Trotta went to the county Board of Ethics last May for an opinion on whether he could take contributions from the PBA, the framing was practically an inside joke. The PBA would sooner have funded the fight for cashless bail than for the political career of Trotta, who frequently bedevils the police union. 

The Republican ex-cop got no satisfaction then, as the board said the question was not in its purview and referred it to several law enforcement agencies, including the county DA’s office. 

This got Trotta livid, as then-DA Tim Sini had received large contributions from the PBA. So in September 2021, he went back before the board arguing that campaign contributions from the PBA and its PAC and super PAC are improper.

And in March of this year the board agreed with him, for DA candidates, ruling that taking future donations from police unions would be a conflict.

Now Trotta is hoping to travel the same path to get such contributions banned for county executive candidates. On Wednesday, the board reprised the first act of Trotta’s DA battle, by determining that PBA contributions to county executive candidates are allowed.

The decision said that while a “significant non-waivable appearance of impropriety arises due to the unique nature of the relationship between a prosecuting attorney and the police department,” that’s not true with candidates for county executive or incumbents. 

The opinion argues the county executive’s interaction with police is different because while the county executive does negotiate labor contracts, there are checks and balances, including the required vote of the legislature. And because police officers facing discipline for alleged wrongdoing can choose a labor arbitrator or a disciplinary trial to adjudicate, and “The County Executive plays no role in such processes.”

Trotta disagrees vehemently, arguing that the county executive is the primary force in labor negotiations and has a hand, visible or invisible, in disciplinary decisions. He now plans to redouble his efforts.

And this isn’t Trotta’s only ongoing attempt to address the issue. 

At Wednesday’s meeting of the county legislature, Trotta introduced his Suffolk version of the federal Hatch Act. If passed, it would ban almost all political activity by county police officers. That includes contributing to campaigns or political clubs, endorsing or opposing candidates in any advertisement, broadcast or literature, holding official positions in political clubs or campaigns, and running for any office that would affect Suffolk County.

Trotta says he knows the bill stands little chance, but he wants fellow legislators to discuss it, support or oppose it publicly, and answer for their stance.

That, he says, is the only way he can see to get the public engaged and make progress on the issue.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Working Families worked it out with Dems again

Melanie D’Arrigo of Port Washington, a health care advocate and community organizer, ran in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District last month with the endorsement of the Working Families Party. On the Aug. 23 ballot she got 4,197 votes, behind Josh Lafazan with 5,296, Jon Kaiman with 6,884, and Robert Zimmerman, the winner, with 9,482 votes.

The WFP website on Friday still listed her among its candidates for the November election — but apparently that just hadn’t been updated. Ravi Mangla, a spokesman for the party, confirmed to The Point that her name has been replaced with Zimmerman’s on the fall ballot line.

As a result, Zimmerman, of Great Neck, will have a second line like his Republican opponent George Devolder-Santos who is cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party. That avoids the prospect of D’Arrigo siphoning off progressive votes from Zimmerman in a district where she has run before and has some name recognition. 

That’s a bit of a contrast to CD10, largely in Brooklyn, where former prosecutor Dan Goldman barely landed in first place in the Democratic primary the same day. He got 16,686 votes to Assemb. Yuh-Line Niou’s 15,380 votes. Niou was nominated by the WFP for November, and after the absentee ballot count determined she had indeed come in second, she announced that she would not oppose Goldman in the general.

Mangla said by email that while Niou won’t appear on the ballot, Goldman (unlike Zimmerman) will not become the WFP candidate — the line simply won’t have a candidate there. In that district, Republican Benine Hamdan and Independent Matthew Goldstein are given little chance to defeat Goldman.

The primary season, delayed and staggered by the state’s redistricting mess, featured other suspense over what impact the WFP, most widely viewed as a left-wing faction of the Democrats, would have on candidacies. State Democratic Party leaders breathed a sigh of relief when Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado beat WFP opponent Ana María Archila and when Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated the WFP loyalist NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for the top spot.

The WFP, with its standard statement that it does not seek to serve as a spoiler to help Republicans, endorsed Delgado and Hochul for the general.

There were other local angles of interest to the WFP endorsement this primary season. Assemb. Phil Ramos had the WFP endorsement for reelection before he unsuccessfully opposed Monica Martinez for the 4th Senate District nomination, a position for which she has the WFP backing. Mangla told The Point Friday that Ramos will be on the party’s line in his Assembly race.

The bottom line is that WFP endorsements — as adjusted — are no longer causing the factional distress in the Democratic organization that they did earlier in the process.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Pencil Point

Back in their home districts …

Credit: CQ ROLL CALL/R.J. Matson

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Final Point

Another controversial Suffolk Surrogate’s race

The announcement of a vacancy for the presiding judge of Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court took some in the local political universe by surprise. 

Progressive organizer Shoshana Hershkowitz, for example, told The Point she only learned about it in a Newsday article this week. The previous judge for that court, Theresa Whelan, retired July 1 due to health issues, according to Andrew Crecca, district administrative judge of Suffolk County.

That time lag made a difference. The deadline for parties to file certificates of nomination passed weeks ago, says Suffolk GOP election commissioner Betty Manzella. The Republicans and Conservatives acted in time to place veteran Republican election lawyer Vincent Messina on both of their lines. But the county Democrats did not nominate a candidate. 

Hershkowitz is livid about this, and has gathered more than 100 signatures for a letter addressed to Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Schaffer, calling it “troubling” that Messina is poised to slide unopposed into the powerful Surrogate’s position, a key prize for parties given the ability of the judge to assign local attorneys as representatives for those who need guardianships and for the estates of those who died without a will.

The letter mentions Messina’s work on partisan causes and implores Schaffer to “nominate a Democratic candidate, a qualified and viable judicial nominee that all of us would be proud to support and vote for.”

But that doesn’t seem like an option, given the passed deadlines. 

“The governor can appoint someone to fill the vacancy with the consent of the Senate, but they would only serve out the term until the end of this December,” wrote state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin in an email, “and it does not get that person on the ballot for the November general election.”

The county election board plans to certify the general election ballot on Sept. 15.

Hershkowitz calls all of this a “shame,” but it is not the first time there has been backlash to party machinations concerning this patronage-laden job. Back in 2018, it was part of a multi-judgeship deal that had the Suffolk Democrats planning to cross-endorse Conservative Marian Tinari, the wife of the county Conservative Party chairman.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano