Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) is running for reelection once again in the 13th Legislative District after taking his seat in 2014. Also on the ballot are Democrat Kevin Mulholland, who isn’t actively campaigning, and Michael Simonelli on the Conservative ticket. Simonelli didn’t respond to TBR News Media’s request to participate in the debate.
The 13th Legislative District includes Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, San Remo, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and St. James, as well as portions of Commack and East Northport. The district is bounded by Route 25 to the south, Larkfield Road to the west, the Long Island Sound to the north and the Brookhaven town line to the east.
Trotta said he wants to run again because he wants “to clean up.”
“I hate to say that I dwell on corruption, but I do,” the county legislator said. “I think you need someone like me who’s the thorn in the side to keep people straight because quite honestly they’re not straight.”
While fighting corruption may be at the forefront of his mind, Trotta said what he enjoys most about his position is helping his constituents, especially senior citizens, and acknowledging the good works of community members such as Eagle Scouts.
Trotta said he takes exception with some of Simonelli’s campaign tactics where the Conservative candidate has called Trotta a “communist” and has said the county legislator wants to defund the police, which he said is not true at all.
He said his opponent’s campaign is based on Simonelli being a police officer, but Trotta said his opponent has performed no police function in the last 10 years. Simonelli serves as treasurer of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.
According to Simonelli’s campaign website, he is an active police officer in Suffolk and has been for 21 years. For nine of those years, he has also been a Suffolk PBA executive board member.
Suffolk County Police Department
Trotta, who was a SCPD officer for 25 years and on the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force for over 10, has been vocal about wasteful spending in the police department, but said he does not believe in defunding the police. His concern is about salaries, overtime and pensions. He said there are 16 people in the SCPD who taxpayers are paying $300,000 each a year even though they don’t perform an active police function and don’t go on calls.
He added this cost taxpayers millions each year and could be the equivalent of hiring 100 new officers. Trotta said he believes the police should be paid well, but increases shouldn’t be three times the cost of living. He said this has been done six out of eight years.
“How do you get that much in raises when [the county has] no money?” he said. “We borrowed $550 million from the pension fund, we drained the clean water fund for $250 million.”
He said he’s not against county police officers getting salary increases.
“Just make it the cost of living,” he said, adding the police officers contract includes that if the cost of living goes up more than 5% they can reopen their contract.
“The roads and everything else suffers when you’re paying 2,300 people a third of your budget — a billion dollars,” Trotta said.
The 2022 county budget will have a surplus, and Trotta said it’s not the norm and is due to millions of federal aid, stimulus aid and unemployment supplement.
“I’m happy to see that the [Steve] Bellone administration (D) is actually going to pay down some of our debt with it,” he said.
But Trotta still has concerns as he said sales tax revenue was up 20% which led to millions of dollars, but the county is budgeting flat this year. He said no one can predict, though, if sales revenue would go down, and he said he would budget the same as in 2020.
Simonelli’s campaign is saying Trotta is against sewers but the county legislator said that couldn’t be further from the truth. Long Island Environmental Voters Forum recently endorsed him.
Recently, Trotta has been advocating for current Kings Park sewer district residents and businesses impacted by an expansion of the Kings Park sewage treatment plant to vote “yes” on Dec. 14 for sewers for Kings Park’s business district.
He is in favor of working toward ensuring that Smithtown’s Main Street and Lake Avenue in St. James also are hooked up to sewer systems in the future.
One of Trotta’s biggest concerns is election law. He said the PBA collects $1 a day from every police officer and probation officer, and village department members in Amityville, Northport and Ocean Beach. While the departments can opt out of this, an individual police officer cannot.
He said state election law 17-156 is clear in stating “all campaign contributions must be voluntary.”
He said county District Attorney Tim Sini (D) benefits from this procedure with contributions around $500,000 and County Executive Bellone around a million dollars. Trotta said he has a problem with his opponent Simonelli being the treasurer of the PBA, and therefore being responsible for transferring the money.
The county legislator held a press conference about the matter on Oct. 21. (For the full story, see page A5)
Trotta said he’s not afraid of fighting corruption, and he knows he works for the taxpayers.
“I don’t respond well to people bullying me,” he said.