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Lawmakers sustain veto of take-home guns for COs

Suffolk County Legislature sustained County Executive Steve Bellone’s veto of a budget amendment that would have funded take-home guns for county COs

By Rick Brand

SUFFOLK COUNTY — The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday sustained County Executive Steve Bellone’s veto of a budget amendment that would have funded take-home guns for county correction officers.

When Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) raised the veto on the agenda, no one -- neither Republican nor Democrat -- made a motion to override the measure. Two weeks ago, the legislature had unanimously approved a $115,000 amendment to Bellone’s $2.89 billion budget for 2015 to fund the purchase of 200 handguns for correction officers, most of whom do not carry weapons on the job inside the county jails.

Gregory said the administration and correction union officials told him that the gun issue had become part of ongoing talks on a new labor contract, which was scheduled to enter binding arbitration Tuesday.

“The administration and the union are working on a resolution to the issue through negotiations,” said Gregory, adding that the issue could return to the legislature if there is settlement of the gun issue in talks. Neither the union nor the administration would comment on talks on the contract, which expired in 2011.

The legislature’s inaction came after Bellone issued a rare veto saying that only the county executive under the state Taylor Law has the authority to negotiate or change the terms of a contract, on which lawmakers can later vote. He said the system protects the taxpayers from having unions make an end run around bargaining by appealing for benefits without making concessions.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, said he did not seek an override to give both sides time to settle the issue. But Kennedy said providing guns, “is not a term or condition of employment and raising the Taylor Law is a bit of a red herring.”

Also Tuesday, the legislature after months of delay ended litigation with environmentalists over what they claimed was Bellone’s improper raid on sewer assessment stabilization reserve fund. The legislature ratified the settlement, which was approved in a referendum earlier this month.

The deal calls for the county to spend $29.4 million for land purchases and sewers and other environmental projects. In return, the county can continue to borrow from the sewer fund for three more years before having to start paying the money back.

Three GOP lawmakers -- Kennedy, Robert Trotta, of Fort Salonga and Kevin McCaffrey, of Lindenhurst -- opposed the measure.

In other action, the legislature:

Approved the $8 million purchase of 171 acres on the Carmans River in Yaphank, which had been slated for the Avalon Bay development. The county and Brookhaven Town will split the purchase cost.