Suffolk County lawmakers who rejected promoting the nephew of a high-ranking police official on the same day that the ex-district attorney was convicted of corruption warned that more scandals were coming soon.
Suffolk legislators voted 9-7 on Dec. 17 against approving a waiver of the county’s anti-nepotism law to allow Sgt. Salvatore Gigante — whose uncle is Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante — to be promoted to the district attorney’s detective squad.
“This is not over,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who is stepping down next month to join the Babylon Town Board. “There are other things that are coming. I wont be here, but I assure you this is not over.”
The vote to reject the promotion came on the same day that ex-Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota and his former chief deputy in charge of public corruption Christopher McPartland were convicted in Central Islip federal court of covering up former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke beating a handcuffed suspect that stole Burke’s sex toys, porn, and other items. Burke pleaded guilty has since been released from prison. Spota and McPartland are planning to appeal their convictions.
“There’s still serious, serious problems with this police department and I think you will see that in the next few months how they’re being exposed,” added Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a former Suffolk police detective. He also expressed concern that the Gigante transfer would send a message to the other 2,200 members of the department that promotions depend on connections, not merit.
Gigante’s proposed promotion prompted a whistleblower to make a complaint to Gregory’s office about how the department handled it. Critics said that the department overlooked more qualified candidates, including some who were minorities, in favor of Gigante, who is white. Department leaders maintained that Gigante was the best man for the job and that his uncle recused himself from the process.
Some lawmakers argued that District Attorney Tim Sini should be allowed to hire whoever he wants and that the chief of detectives has proven himself to be honorable. Gregory argued that the anti-nepotism law needs to be applied fairly for it to work. He also balked at the practice of department leaders transferring employees to new titles before lawmakers approve the waiver, as was done with Gigante.
Trotta noted that earlier in the day, Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, held a news conference following Spota’s conviction, where Donoghue announced: “The days of Long Island’s good old boy networks combining politics, power, and policing, to benefit the select few at the expense of the taxpaying public are dead and gone.”
Before voting against Gigante’s promotion, Trotta said: “Apparently they may not be.”
A federal review of Gigante’s transfer concluded without any action. And lawmakers didn’t pass reforms the presiding officer proposed to correct issues that he said arose during the debate, such as barring the subject of a complaint from contacting a whistleblower. But Gregory said numerous people came to him with additional allegations of illegality and that he referred them to federal investigators.
“Things are happening,” he said. “I don’t know when, but things are happening.”