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Mar 29, 2011 6:09 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Candidates Jockey For Levy's Position Amidst Investigation

Mar 29, 2011 6:09 PM

Within an hour of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s abrupt announcement last week that he would not seek reelection this fall to a third term, six potential candidates had called Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle to let him know they wanted the job.

“Quite frankly, Republicans are tripping over themselves trying to run against Steve Bellone,” Mr. LaValle said, referring to the presumptive Democratic candidate for county executive this fall.

Mr. Levy’s pronouncement last Thursday, March 24, that he will not run again and will turn over his $4 million campaign war chest to investigators—both conditions handed down by District Attorney Thomas Spota following a 16-month investigation that focused on Mr. Levy’s fund-raising tactics—surprised even political insiders this week and left them scratching their heads trying to figure out what exactly had happened.

No one has divulged the nature of the D.A.’s investigation into Mr. Levy’s fundraising efforts. Mr. Levy was not charged with any crimes.

A lifelong Democrat who switched to the Republican Party last year in an unsuccessful bid for the governor’s race, Mr. Levy issued a press release last Thursday afternoon announcing he would not enter the race, noting at the bottom of his press release that “questions have been raised” concerning his campaign’s fundraising efforts, he accepts responsibility for his actions and that he would turn over his campaign funds to the D.A. to resolve those questions. His statement asserted that his decision was based on a desire to pursue other interests.

“After much discussion with my family and due to my desire to tackle other challenges, I am announcing that I will not be seeking another term,” his statement said.

Mr. Levy himself has kept out of the public eye since making his announcement last Thursday. His director of communications, Mark L. Smith, has consistently declined to comment since.

Moments after Mr. Levy’s statement was released, however, Mr. Spota’s office issued a statement saying that Mr. Levy was being required to turn over his $4 million campaign war chest to satisfy a 16-month investigation conducted by the D.A.’s Government Corruption Bureau. The investigation began in the summer of 2009, well before Mr. Levy switched parties or sought the GOP nod to run for governor.

The statement did not provide details into the specific nature of the investigation or what sparked it. Bob Clifford, a spokesman for the D.A.’s office, did not answer specific questions regarding the statement.

“This outcome ends the inquiry into Mr. Levy’s conduct. The investigation will continue with respect to the conduct of others,” Mr. Spota’s statement read.

“There is no question that while the investigation revealed serious issues with regard to fundraising and the manner in which it was conducted, including the use of public resources, I am confident that Mr. Levy did not personally profit,” Mr. Spota is quoted as saying.

Mr. Levy met with prosecutors and investigators several times, as part of the investigation, it stated. The turned-over campaign funds will be distributed to political donors who request its return, with the remainder going to charity, although none will be distributed until after the fall election in an effort to avoid political gain by other political parties or individuals, Mr. Spota’s office said.

Many local lawmakers said they were stunned this week by the announcements.

County Legislator Edward P. Romaine of Center Moriches, a Republican who represents the North Fork and eastern Brookhaven Town and ran against Mr. Levy for county executive in 2003, even questioned Mr. Levy’s ability to govern for the remainder of his term, in light of the probe.

“Clearly, it’s a sad day for Suffolk County,” Mr. Romaine said. “Steve Levy is the first county executive in Suffolk’s history to be forced from office because of his purported—because I don’t know what they are—purported misdeeds. I would hope that he has the confidence of the people and legislature to govern for the next nine months.

“Once Steve Levy is a private citizen, I wish him the best of luck,” Mr. Romaine added. “I question his ability to effectively govern the county for the next nine months in light of the information that has come out about his activities for the last few years.”

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who has clashed with Mr. Levy, particularly in recent months, said Friday that he had heard rumors of an investigation into either ethics or campaign contributions. “I was not under the belief that anything like this was imminent, not at all,” he said. “I was as shocked as anybody. Particularly knowing how tightfisted he can be, to part with even a dollar of his campaign funds, to give up $4 million, that’s pretty significant.”

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Remember this: "Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has told GOP leaders he's willing to switch parties and run for governor as a Republican - but only if they clear the field of all foes."

No politician with unbridled ambition decides not to run unless there is trouble. Good riddance.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Mar 24, 11 5:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh my. Is this the same County Executor Steve Levy (as a Democrat) who said Bill McGintee would be a fine candidate and do a great job if he decided to oppose Jay Schneiderman for the Legislature position in 2008 . . . as Jay spoke out about the finances of EH (predicting deficits) and the Town sank into a mire thanks to its all-Democrat Board and the likes of Steve Levy and Tom Spota, who allowed Bill to skate while hanging Ted Hults? I guess Steve and Bill know the same people and how to make ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Mar 24, 11 10:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
This should be a wake up call to all Suffolk County politicians to be very, very careful with your campaign finances, using public resources and property to run for office and, to make sure the people raising money and filing your Board of Elections reports dot all of the i's and cross all of the t's. This is very serious business and Mr. Levy, (if in fact he broke any laws) is very lucky not to be going to jail. Others, have gone to jail for campaign finance improprieties.
By Carole Campolo (46), East Hampton on Mar 24, 11 11:49 PM
Did Guldi's allegations have anything to do with this?
By baywoman (165), southampton on Mar 25, 11 12:09 AM
So shall all despots perish.
By fazool (22), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 12:52 AM
2012 cant come soon enough
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Mar 25, 11 2:48 AM
Yes-George Guldi's trail had a lot to do with this story
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Mar 25, 11 6:52 AM
Let's dance in the streets!
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Mar 25, 11 9:26 AM
question again (same as baywoman) ..DID GULDI'S TRAIL HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS??? AND THE ANS. WAS YES. (BY WESTHAMPTONBOY)....
NOW ....LET'S HELP GET OUR COMMUNITIES BACK AND KEEP PRESSURE ONTO ALL THE POLITICIANS WHO THOUGHT THEY COULD BUY AND SELL LAND THAT THEY NEVER OBTAINED LEGALLY!! THAT GOES FROM SMALL TOWNS ALL THE WAY TO WASHINGTON CONGRESSMEN!!!!!
BANKS -NO MORE BAILOUTS AND UNITED STATES BANKS FOLLOW THE LAWS THAT MADE THIS COUNTRY! NOT INTERNATIONAL LAWS OF DICTATORS!!!!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 25, 11 9:58 AM
Time magazine, November 9, 1998.
Mar 25, 11 10:09 AM appended by Mr. Z
Corporate welfare, and States at war. Just Google it...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 25, 11 10:09 AM
Essentially, as I understand it, Levy was engaging in pay for play in exchange for Suffolk County contracts. I wonder if all those contracts will be revisited. Is the Gabreski PDD/project be up for grabs again? Or is all above board on that one?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 25, 11 12:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where is the NY State DA? This is simply unacceptable Spotta would make a deal to distribute Levy's left over, ill gotten money that even he says was obtained illegally. The Spotta/Levy connection must be fully investigated. Its simply outrageous that this quid pro quo could be openly presented to the public as if Suffolk residents are held in utter contempt. Spotta says he did the crime, but doesn't have to pay the time, because "he did not personnaly profit from it." Unbelievable. Does Spotta ...more
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Mar 25, 11 2:41 PM
3 members liked this comment
Levy is shrewd. He knows a good deal when he sees it.MD
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 26, 11 8:59 PM
Time for a special prosecutor at the state or federal level to air the dirty laundry IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 25, 11 3:33 PM
3 members liked this comment
I was talking to some friends at the Dennison Building 16th Floor area,they revealed to me that Mr Leavy has expressed the wish that Patrick (Skip) Heany is his first choice to succeed him,he said that Pat has all the qualities,honesty, family values,high morals based on the tenets of his faith and most of all his stellar job as Southampton Town Supervisor,RUN SKIP GP
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Mar 26, 11 9:33 AM
LEVY said "that Pat HEANY has all the qualities,honesty, family values,high morals based" WHAT??????

I would not vote for any candidate back by LEVY........are you crazy?????????????? ALL OF THEM SHOULD BE INVESTIGATE...EVEN SPOTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Mar 26, 11 12:23 PM
...ummm, the 16th floor is non-existent at the Dennison building, maybe much like your "friends".
By cush870 (31), Westhampton Beach on Mar 27, 11 10:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
And Pat's a really good cook too....He cooked the books around here for years.
Isn't Malone another Levy appointee in Suffolk gov.?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 26, 11 12:41 PM
Mr Leavy is a good man who did his best to do his job.
By ranger (54), springs on Mar 27, 11 7:56 AM
2 members liked this comment
Steve Levy should resign immediately. We cannot afford to have him making executive decisions in light of this scandal. I expect the governor and the NY State DA to read him the riot act. Leave!
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 27, 11 9:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
what scandal ? it all BS !!
By ranger (54), springs on Mar 27, 11 12:15 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Mar 27, 11 2:17 PM
I wonder if Levy will be sharing a cell with Guildi. No doubt Heany is next.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Mar 27, 11 8:12 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By They call me (2826), southampton on Mar 27, 11 9:27 PM
This is only the beginning folks... there's much more to come on both Levy and Spota.
I wonder if the Guldi Trial Jurors are now rethinking their inconsistent verdicts?
But the REAL question is: WHAT SOES LEVY HAVE ON SPOTA THAT HE WAS ABLE TO PAY A $4 MILLION DOLLAR SLUSH-FUND BRIBE AND NOT ONLY WALK AWAY, BUT FINISH OUT HIS TERM?
By terriscofield (5), East Yaphank on Mar 28, 11 11:12 PM
I guess Levy won't be going to 3 or 4 events a night anymore. He'll be sitting home watching American Idol.
By Cosmo123 (7), East Hampton on Mar 29, 11 1:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
I heard he likes dancing with the stars,,,,,,,,,
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Mar 29, 11 4:02 PM
Now that the NYS budget process is over, perhaps former AG now Governor Cuomo will appoint a special prosecutor to hang Suffolk County's dirty laundry on the clothes line?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 29, 11 7:27 PM
from our friends at wikipedia:
"During the 1970s and early 1980s, Spota worked as a Suffolk prosecutor under District Attorney Patrick Henry. He then entered private law practice in Suffolk, representing clients including the Suffolk Detectives Association and other law enforcement unions."
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Mar 30, 11 2:07 PM
We were all very sad to learn of County Exc. Steve Levy's statement last week.
Steve Levy is a tough leader when it came to keeping the tax burden well
controlled and following the Rule of Law and protecting the resident/citizens
in Suffolk County. He stood up to outrageous requests from his Legislature and of course we can all agree to disagree on any subject but I feel he held the line of real input versus nonsense!
Could the allegations against Steve Levy be payback politics ...more
By East Ender (64), Southampton on Mar 31, 11 3:52 PM
tax burden controlled? then why did it go up every year of his reign? This is a first that a body believes Levy took nearly $1 million in kickbacks for contracts awarded by the County so that Dems could payback politically. Saved taxpayers money? Let's not count the $157 million taken to build an oversized prison on the promise the State would be paying the county the nightly fee for each incarcerated person. "Steve Levy is a tough leader when it came to keeping the tax burden low" cannot be true ...more
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Apr 8, 11 3:30 AM
Lawrence N. Gray, Esq.
820 Fireplace Drive
Kings Park, New York 11754

April 2, 2011
Presiding Officer William Lindsay
Suffolk Legislators 725 Veterans Memorial Hwy
Smithtown, New York 11787

' Re: Why an Executive Order of Superseder From Governor Cuomo re: District Attorney Thomas Spota is Needed and what it is.

Greetings:
County Executive Steve Levy and District Attorney Thomas Spota have an illegal agreement, ...more
By mo (89), Sag Harbor on Apr 8, 11 3:44 AM
i'll be happy when he goes to jail he broke the law he should pay for his crime not in money , time in jail he always look to get the guys who break the law well it time he do it himself he be a better man showing how he was that he broke the law now do the time and not a year eather but knowing levy he going to get off somewere along the line . ps i like the guy but when you screw up you pay for your mistakes!
By chev (1), shirley on Jun 23, 11 4:30 PM