It seems there is a new category of criminal behavior, at least that's how the Suffolk County District Attorney interprets the law.
In Tom Spota's world, behavior that borders on bribery and graft is OK, at least if you give the money back and agree to disappear quietly. The unsaid implication is Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy basically ran a Pay To Play operation out of his Hauppauge office – if you wanted to do business with the county, you had to be a campaign contributor. Worse, some of money from firms getting paid by the county found its way to Levy's wife's business, though no criminal activity is alleged. Levy forfeited $4 million and agreed not to seek re-election. Nice – for him. It used to be though, that that kind of behavior was prosecuted. Testimony in the George Guldi trial revealed in one instance a person received a contract with the county after Levy insisted he make a campaign contribution –- and the individual wasn't even qualified for the job. The county ADA prosecuting the case took great pains to keep Levy's name out of that mess. Why? Of course, Levy should get every opportunity to defend himself – in court. And if he can't, throw the bum in jail with the other thieves.
Spota's kid gloves were recently on display in East Hampton, where the scope of his investigation should have included questionable CPF land deals, consultants given tens of millions of dollars worth of business despite a history of shoddy workmanship, and a town supervisor who fraudulently won re-election by cooking the books and hiding a huge deficit. In that case, there is little doubt on our part that highly placed State Dems were calling the shots, and Spota and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli meekly followed orders.
In the Levy case, its harder to figure why he is getting a free pass. He's switched parties already, alienating both sides of the aisle. Why protect him? Maybe because a lot of other pols have pulled the same Pay to Play shenanigans?
State of Southampton
We agree that Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has done a good job and deserves the right to crow a little bit, as she did in Friday's State of the Town Address. However, we quibble with some of the incidentals.
Throne-Holst feels compelled to criticize previous administrations: the fact is, Southampton has been a well-run machine, the budget handled efficiently by Skip Heaney and his successor, Linda Kabot. Yes, there are some funds that flashed deficits, but we suspect the accounting department and software snafus are more to blame than any individual. Certainly measured by the most important factor –- the tax rate –- the public has every right to be satisfied. The town has a superior -- in fact, unmatched --record of holding down taxes over the past decade.
We realize it's an election year, but the supervisor has to get over her infatuation with town employees. Municipalities all over the country are now publicly acknowledging over-generous retirement packages and health benefits have crippled growth and are a huge reason the national economy is so sluggish. Some are near bankruptcy because of the huge burdens, which continue to grow every year.
The time to praise union workers for their hard work and to cave into police demands is long past. Let's not forget Kabot stood up to the police union, and Throne-Holst responded by getting all fuzzy-wuzzy with the union hierarchy, even fielding a middle of the night phone call from the union head gloating about Kabot's arrest.
The time to demand town workers pick up more of the escalating costs of benefits has arrived. The time to cap payroll and freeze hiring isn't the only prudent action a good financial manager must take – it's time to cut payroll and consolidate jobs and departments. East Hampton managed an almost 20 percent decrease once people who understood how to run a town took office. There is no reason it can't happen in Southampton.
To put it bluntly, if Throne-Holst is happy with the unions and the unions are happy with the supervisor, then something is terribly wrong. Nobody gets out unscathed in this economy: public employees have to share the pain the private sector has endured for the past few years.