Three Suffolk Republican lawmakers called Tuesday for County Executive Steve Bellone to resign for selecting and standing by former police Chief of Department James Burke, and said District Attorney Thomas Spota should step down following investigations into county law enforcement.
At a news conference at the Riverhead County Center, Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said Bellone should resign, while Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), said Bellone should consider quitting. All called for Spota’s resignation.
Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) was not at the news conference but said Bellone should resign. She declined to comment about Spota.
Trotta said Bellone, a Democrat, stood by Burke, even after news media reports about internal affairs investigations that had occurred in the 1990s, when Burke was a county police officer. One of those investigations found Burke guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for his sexual relationship with a known felon and losing his police-issued weapon twice.
“He kept him in his current position and stood by him,” Trotta said.
Burke pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal charges of beating a burglary suspect and orchestrating a cover-up of the crime.
Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in a Newsday opinion piece Monday called on Spota to step down following criminal convictions of officials including Burke and investigations into county law enforcement.
In a response to DeMarco’s editorial, Spota, a Democrat, defended his office and said he was not responsible for Burke’s actions.
In a statement, Bellone called Trotta and Cilmi “partisan politicians who just don’t get it. This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office.”
Also Tuesday, Trotta and Cilmi called for Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, who also is Babylon Town supervisor, to resign from one job or the other.
They argued that Schaffer, who introduced Burke and Bellone, is too involved in county government.
Cilmi said there are unanswered questions about what Bellone knew about Burke and why Schaffer introduced Burke to Bellone. “How deeply is Schaffer involved in the running of county government?” Cilmi asked.
Trotta said Schaffer’s participation makes county government “too political.”
Asked to respond to Trotta, Schaffer said: “I will let the voters of Babylon decide that, not a political hack.”
McCaffrey said he did not believe Schaffer should step down.
Democrats so far have resisted calls for Spota to resign.