Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said his former correction lieutenant, Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh, was warned not to conduct political business on county time years before his arrest.
Among the complaints lodged against Walsh were anonymous allegations that he was unprofessional and abusive, but neither those claims nor the accusation that the chairman was politicking at work resulted in disciplinary action, DeMarco testified Tuesday at Walsh’s theft and fraud trial at Central Islip federal court.
“There were several instances where we did look to discipline Ed Walsh,” DeMarco said during the fourth day of the high-profile trial. “But we could not proceed with a disciplinary hearing in a couple of instances.”
Prosecutors alleged that between 2011 and 2014 Walsh effectively stole more than $80,000 in salary for hours he was actually golfing, gambling at Foxwoods casino in Connecticut and conducting Conservative Party business. Attorneys for Walsh, who retired from the county sheriff’s department shortly before the trial began but not before he could collect his pension, have argued that Walsh was free to come and go as he pleased and make up the hours later.
DeMarco, the highest-ranking elected Suffolk official who’s a Conservative Party member, conceded during cross examination that he too sometimes discussed politics while he was at work, especially during his re-election campaigns. But after one complaint that Walsh was conducting party business when he was supposed to be working at the county jail, DeMarco said he asked Suffolk County police and prosecutors for assistance investigating Walsh in 2012. Neither agency turned over any evidence, DeMarco testified.
When prosecutors asked what happened to that probe, DeMarco told the jury, “I received a phone call from the district attorney.” His response prompted an objection from Walsh’s attorney, William Wexler. DeMarco testified Monday that the same thing had happened when Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Brown rebuffed DeMarco’s requests to subpoena Walsh’s golf records before DeMarco turned to federal investigators for help. Spota previously issued a statement blaming DeMarco for thwarting the probe into Walsh.
At another point during the sheriff’s testimony, Wexler had DeMarco review Walsh’s personnel file, which they noted had no complaints in it. The only reprimand Walsh ever got was when an undersheriff told Walsh to “cease and desist” politicking at work, DeMarco testified.
DeMarco also told prosecutors that he received several requests years ago from constituents and a county legislator to investigate alleged improprieties in Walsh’s hiring at the sheriff’s office. That investigation also went nowhere.
DeMarco said the investigation into Walsh’s work performance resumed in 2014 after he received new information that the Suffolk Conservative Party chairman was collecting a paycheck for time he spent out of the office while he claimed he was at work.
After the sheriff’s two days of testimony concluded, witnesses who followed him Tuesday included deputy sheriffs, correction officers, Conservative Party officials and Richard Schaffer, who serves as Babylon Town Supervisor and Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman.
When prosecutors asked Schaffer how he juggles both roles, he joked, “That’s a question my therapist has asked me.” Schaffer then listed about nine times between 2011 and 2014 when he met Walsh either at public events or at one-on-one meetings to discuss politics. The meetings ranged from breakfasts and lunches to evening fundraisers. Schaffer’s law partner, William Wexler, is Walsh’s defense attorney.
Prosecutors estimate that they may rest their case as early as this week. The trial resumes Wednesday.