HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Shock waves are reverberating through Suffolk County on Thursday after a two-year grand jury investigation found the former county executive, himself, compromised the integrity of an ethics commission.
Taxpayers and voters jammed Suffolk’s legislative chambers, many outraged to hear the charges in a special grand jury report that Steve Levy manipulated the Ethics Commission during his term as county executive.
Levy allegedly waged attacks on political opponents and helped firms owned by his wife gain contracts. He even allegedly attempted to intimidate Suffolk County legislator Edward Romaine.
“I’m happy to see that it came out because people should know how our former county executive acted. I think the veil has been lifted and clearly his actions call into question whether he should ever serve in public service again,” Romaine said.
In March 2011, the district attorney ended a probe into campaign fundraising when Levy agreed not to seek re-election and turned over his $4 million-plus campaign fund.
The following are the findings of that probe:
- The Levy administration completely destroyed the ethics infrastructure of Suffolk County.
- The Ethics Commission was used as a political sword to attack enemies of county officials and as a political shield to authorize questionable conduct by certain county officials, including the Deputy County Executive Ben Zwirn.
“In the very beginning of his administration, I thought Steve Levy was right on track and somewhere along the way, a dark side took over which I can’t explain,” Zwirn said.
Levy vehemently denied the allegations.
“The report was based in large part on testimony from political detractors of the county executive,” Levy said in a statement.
Although the conduct was improper, the report concluded no criminal charges were filed because there are no penalties for it under the law.
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota suggested legislators act promptly to make sure future public officials can be prosecuted for the behavior uncovered in the report.
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