Without A Shot
Richard Amper, president of the Pine Barrens Society and a long-time thorn in the county executive’s side, is highly critical of Spota’s action.
“The public was ill-served,” Amper adamantly tells the Press, “because we don’t know what it is that Levy is guilty of—and his only punishment is not running for re-election. It isn’t even removal from office! On the other hand,” Amper says with a laugh, “maybe we should have sent Spota to Libya because he seems to be able to obtain regime change without firing a shot!”
Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki Jr., a Republican, has more sympathy for Spota than he does for the county executive.
“I’m not one to second-guess him,” says Sawicki, a former ranking Republican on the state Assembly ethics committee. “It’s like you trust your doctor to make the right decision. The fact is, he got the guy out of our hair, and he’s not going to be able to run again. Regardless of who wins, I’m really looking forward to having a government that can work for the people, where we can get along and disagree like gentlemen and ladies…rather than Levy trying to tear the county apart just out of personal vendettas.”
To Sawicki, whose office is in the midst of auditing the county jail, the largest Suffolk public works project in three decades, “What sticks in people’s minds is that Steve Levy has yet to come clean and tell the people who voted for him in two consecutive elections what he did wrong that forced him to leave office…. No one in their right mind is going to give up $4 million unless there’s a substantial problem. [Levy] holds a press conference when he stubs his toe. Yet [here] he’s been extremely silent and goes to the extreme of evading the question, and that’s not fair to the people of Suffolk County.”
Despite repeated encouragement to address questions raised by the county executive’s statement in March, the Levy administration would only officially say it was unavailable for comment. Likewise, the district attorney’s office stressed that it was constrained by the agreement with Levy and by ongoing investigations into related matters so it too would not expand on its March public statement.
“I initially agreed with the D.A.’s decision,” says Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), who’s clashed repeatedly with Levy over the years. Lindsay said that having to hold a special election to replace Levy—had he been forced to resign—might have cost the county more than $1 million.
“I hope it was the right decision for the Suffolk County taxpayer,” he says wistfully, admitting that he’s had some second thoughts about it but he’s glad that the residents were spared a long, drawn-out trial as Levy used his millions to defend himself. “Although I have been on opposite sides of so many issues with the county executive, I didn’t want our government to go into a state of limbo and get nothing done.”
But Lindsay conceded that “there are still people out there who say to me, ‘Well, what did he do?’ I really don’t know. That’s a legitimate question. They have a right to know.”
The Democratic presiding officer’s sentiment is shared by a political leader on the opposing side, Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle, who’s been credited with helping to persuade Levy to join the Grand Old Party last year.
“While it may be necessary to withhold specific details,” LaValle says, “there is no argument that can be made to withhold all of the details of this matter. This is a sitting county executive of a county that is larger than 13 states.
An individual whose popularity was completely off the charts, and in a matter of minutes his entire political career ended, and we’re all left in the dark about what occurred. I make these comments based upon specific conversations with Steve Levy wherein he has indicated that he has done nothing wrong.
“The district attorney has done a good job in Suffolk County,” LaValle emphasizes, “but we in the public are just dumbfounded that someone in such a high office could be removed from office without any explanation whatsoever… I was assured that more details would follow in the future, and we haven’t had any details. No one else has been indicted. No one else has been arrested. No one else has been implicated. Nothing has occurred. It all just went away.”