A special Suffolk County grand jury report found that officials “acted as puppeteers” for members of the defunct county Ethics Commission, which was manipulated for political gain.
The 56-page report released Thursday—the culmination of a two-year investigation by District Attorney Tom Spota’s office—makes legislative, executive and legislative recommendations. The authors were barred by New York State law from naming the officials involved.
“Legislators must act to make certain that future public officials can be prosecuted for behavior uncovered in this report,” Spota said. He noted the behavior exposed “was unprincipled and wrong, but not criminal.”
The grand jury reviewed thousands of pages of documents and heard testimony from 25 witnesses. The legislature dissolved the Ethics Commission and replaced it with a new Board of Ethics last fall.
Among the findings, prosecutors said in a statement that the commission was used as a “political sword” for enemies of unnamed officials while simultaneously acting as a “political shield” to authorize questionable conduct.
A complaint with the commission was also used to try and intimidate a county legislator into not voting for a bill that later passed and allowed the legislature to investigate the commission. The “substance, form and timing of its work” were also dictated by officials for political purposes.
Included in its list of recommendations is passage of a county law that would make such future abuses of the ethics board a felony.