By Jano Tantongco
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called for the immediate resignation of Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota last week after a wiretapping probe exposing alleged misconduct was publicized.
“While the federal investigation into your office and several members of your staff is ongoing, this matter cannot wait,” Bellone wrote in a letter addressed to Spota.
Details of the wiretaps were initially published in a Newsday report citing unnamed officials close to the investigation. Despite Spota’s governmental corruption bureau uncovering a swath of alleged corruption in 2007, including exchanging bribes for government positions, the anonymous officials claimed that most of the apparent crimes went unprosecuted.
Responding to the allegations, Spota said they were a “vendetta.” Spota claims that Bellone asked him to refrain from investigating and prosecuting people Bellone is close to, including his Donald Rodgers, his former IT commissioner who pled guilty in 2014 to misdemeanor charges of filing a false instrument.
“He begged me not to charge him, as a matter of fact, even though I showed him, and I explained to him, that Rodgers had falsified documents with respect to a failed contract,” Spota said in a statement emailed May 12.
Bellone stated in his letter that if Spota does not willingly step down, he will appeal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove Spota from office.
A pair of local Suffolk legislators, interviewed over the course of the last week, differ in opinions on the situation.
Instead of immediately joining those who are calling for Spota to step down, Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) insists on due process for the district attorney. He also called for the U.S. Attorney’s office and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate.
“As disturbing and distasteful as they are… they’re allegations,” he said. “It leaves a massive public perception that there is just deep-rooted corruption. I’m concerned because I think when you have a loss in public confidence, it makes it impossible for us to lead.”
However, he explained that the public perception of corruption could impede Spota from properly performing his work.
“If he does find that this investigative process is so long and so drawn out and if he’s unable to do his job because of the loss of public confidence, then I think it’s a personal decision... only he can decide that,” Spencer said.
Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) weighed in during a May 12 interview, saying both officials should step down.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “They’re both lying to some extent. It’s time for them to go.”
Trotta also claimed that Bellone knew about the allegations against James Burke, former county police chief, and chose not to act. Trotta, a 25-year member of the Suffolk Police Department, said the allegations against Burke were common knowledge among county police. However, according to published reports, Bellone has said he was unaware of those allegations when he appointed Burke.