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John Kennedy for Suffolk County

Kennedy: Bellone Refuses to Give Back $30 Million That Was Illegally Taken

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As an example, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone — who lost his legal battle with the Pine Barrens Society twice already — is once again appealing a recent Appellate Court decision in an effort to stall repayment of $30 million to the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program. John M. Kennedy, Candidate, Suffolk County Executive, points out that, not only has Mr. Bellone refused to pay back the money that could be used to protect Suffolk’s water quality, on top of it, he continues to waste taxpayer money by hiring an outside law firm to take up the case, a pattern that has led to spiraling legal costs under his administration.

Mr. Bellone attempted to challenge the Appellate Court’s original 2012 decision that deemed the practice of taking money from the fund dedicated to clean water to be illegal, and lost. On June 27, 2019, the Court ruled in favor of the Pine Barrens Society again and ordered the County to immediately repay the nearly $30 million to the fund. Once again, Mr. Bellone has decided to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, in 2014, Mr. Bellone settled a separate lawsuit with the Pine Barrens Society over his diversion of more than $32 million from the drinking water fund. However, as part of that settlement, Mr. Bellone negotiated a deal to allow him to take a total of over $171 million from the fund over multiple years to help balance his budget.

“Mr. Bellone has continually diverted money from a fund that was dedicated to clean water and has used it instead to fill holes in his bloated budget,” said Dean Murray, Mr. Kennedy’s Campaign Manager. “Because he took that money, it was not used for what it was intended for, which is why we are having so many issues with our water. To add insult to injury, he is using our tax dollars to hire an outside law firm to fight against putting that money toward making sure our water is clean in order to preserve his slush fund.”

On August 1, 2019, while Mr. Kennedy held a press conference at Corey Beach to explain how the diversion of these dedicated funds has led to many beach closures throughout Suffolk County due to unsafe bacteria levels in the waters, Mr. Bellone announced a $4 billion water protection plan that would span over 50 years. “He does not have a plan on how to pay for this program, which means the taxpayers had better beware,” Mr. Murray said. “While we need a comprehensive long-term plan to protect Long Island’s environment, water resources and drinking water, we need to start with making sure that the money that the taxpayers have already put into these dedicated funds, is used for clean water purposes, not for Bellone’s personal slush fund. If Mr. Bellone really cares about the taxpayers and about clean water, he will drop this costly appeal and return the $30 million to the Drinking Water Protection Program immediately.”

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