10/15/13 9:00am
10/15/2013 9:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO  |  County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county's fiscal situation.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county’s fiscal situation.

New York state’s highest court has blocked a Suffolk County ballot referendum to combine the county’s Comptroller and Treasurer offices, upholding lower courts’ rulings that the county improperly added an amendment to the referendum.

The county’s plan would have consolidated the offices of the Treasurer, Republican Angie Carpenter, and current comptroller Joseph Sawicki. While Mr. Sawicki — a Republican from Southold — and Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone praised the merger as a way to cut costs and trim down government, noting that Suffolk County is the only county in the state with both a Comptroller and Treasurer.

But Ms. Carpenter and others had argued the merger was politically motivated as a way to force her out of office and allow Mr. Sawicki to continue to serve past his term limit. Ms. Carpenter ran against Mr. Bellone for his seat in 2011.

The County Legislature had approved the referendum in July, which would have been voted on this November. But last month, a New York Supreme Court judge threw out the measure, saying the county improperly altered the language of the referendum. The original referendum stated the move would save the county $1 million, while the changed version instead claimed the merger was “for the purposes of streamlining and improving government efficiency.”

The court ruled that the change altered the previously stated intent referendum. The county appealed the ruling, but a state appellate court denied the claim. On Monday, the New York Court of Appeals upheld that lower court ruling, refusing to hear the appeal.

Mr. Bellone slammed the ruling, calling the court’s decision “outrageous.”

“A supermajority of the Suffolk County Legislature voted to put the referendum on the ballot and the opponents of reform know that an overwhelming majority of voters support it,” he said. “While the referendum will not be on the ballot, the issue is alive this November because voters can choose between legislative candidates who support improving efficiency and those who want to maintain the status quo.”

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04/18/11 8:49am
04/18/2011 8:49 AM
Southampton Republican leader Ernest Wruck (from left), County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, Riverhead Republican leader John Galla, Southold Republican leader Denis Noncarrow, and East Hampton Republican leader Trace Duryea at Friday's screening.

COURTESY PHOTO | Southampton Republican leader Ernest Wruck (from left), County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, Riverhead Republican leader John Galla, Southold Republican leader Denis Noncarrow, and East Hampton Republican leader Trace Duryea at Friday's screening.

Republicans from all five East End towns gathered at Polish Hall in Riverhead Friday to jointly screen candidates to replace Steve Levy as the GOP nominee for County Executive.

According to Riverhead Republican leader John Galla, the groups screened three potential candidates: County Treasurer and former County Legislator Angie Carpenter, state Assemblyman  Michael Fitzpatrick of St. James, and state Senator John Flanagan of East Northport. He said county Commissioner of Jurors Michael O’Donohoe has screened with other town committees, but was not present Friday.

Others who were rumored to be possibly screening Friday, but did not, were former Congressman Rick Lazio and Randy Altschuler, who narrowly lost a Congressional race to incumbent Tim Bishop last November.

Mr. Galla said County Comptroller Joe Sawicki of Southold has withdrawn his name from consideration for a county executive run, and County Legislator Ed Romaine, who represents the North Fork, was present Friday but has not asked to be screened.

It is believed to be the first time the East End Republican committees have jointly screened for county executive, although they have done so for other races.

03/31/11 5:22am
03/31/2011 5:22 AM

Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki

County Comptroller and North Fork native Joe Sawicki is considering jumping into the county executive’s race, and said this week he’s “50-50” on whether to seek the GOP nod to run in place of Steve Levy, whose decision last week to drop out of the executive’s race instantly altered Suffolk’s political landscape.

“I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement, which is extremely flattering,” said Mr. Sawicki of Southold, who served in the state Assembly for 11 years. “It could develop into a very interesting scenario.”

Topping his list of concerns is the potential impacts on his family, which he cited as the reason he left Albany in 1993 to become comptroller and chief financial officer for Suffolk Off Track Betting.

“The Albany life was really difficult on my family,” Mr. Sawicki said, adding the same could hold true in serving as county executive.

“As chief executive of the county you’re working 24/7,” he said. “There’s a part of me that’s excited about that challenge. I’m sure I could do a good job.”

Even so, “I really relish my private family time,” said Mr. Sawicki. “In politics you live most of your life in a fish bowl and it would be more so as county executive. I don’t need to be in the press seven days a week like some politicians.”

Mr. Sawicki, who met with Suffolk’s 10 town GOP leaders on Friday, said, “I’ll know in a week or two. I’m on the fence, 50-50, but giving it serious consideration.”

Should he decide to run he’ll be fighting for the nomination against County Treasurer Angie Carpenter of West Islip, who announced her candidacy Monday. The list of potential Republican candidates includes State Senator John Flanagan and

Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, both of Smithtown. Mr. Sawicki said he expects have a dozen Republicans to throw their hats in the ring.

He left OTB to serve as chief deputy county treasurer, a job he held until up until his winning the comptroller’s seat in 2002. He’s enjoyed Democratic cross-endorsement in his last two elections. He developed a friendship along the way with Democratic

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who appeared on the same ballot as Mr. Sawicki and received GOP support in his last two elections.

The district attorney figured prominently in Mr. Levy’s shocking announcement Thursday that he will not seek reelection.
Mr. Bellone, the Babylon Town Supervisor since 2002, is the current favorite to earn the Democratic nomination. Mr. Bellone said he was “seriously considering running for county executive” against Mr. Levy during a county-wide “listening tour” stop at the Riverhead Free Library earlier this month.

Republicans would be foolish to underestimate Mr. Bellone, Mr. Sawicki said.

“He’s a very formidable candidate,” the comptroller said. “Clean image, good fiscal reputation. He’s also got a million and half in campaign contributions so it wouldn’t be a cakewalk against him.”

Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose district covers eastern Brookhaven, Riverhead and the Southold towns, said he had fully expected Mr. Levy, who ran unopposed four years ago, to square off with the Babylon supervisor come November.

“I was surprised and shocked,” said the legislator, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Levy in 2003. “But Steve Levy has always accepted responsibility for his actions. I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Supervisor Bellone called the news of Mr. Levy’s decision “indeed surprising and concerning. But the challenges and opportunities facing us are greater than any one person and I am confident Suffolk County will grow and thrive with new leadership.”

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer said Mr. Levy’s decision not to run opens the door for the Democrats’ return to the county executive’s office.

“I remain as confident as ever that in November we will have a terrific new county executive, Steve Bellone,” he said.

Michael White, Vera Chinese and Grant Parpan contributed to this story.