A Suffolk County legislator has asked for the removal of one of his colleagues from the three committees he serves on in the Legislature.
Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) requested that Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) be removed from the Public Safety, Health and Ways & Means committees, during the Nov. 12 Public Safety committee meeting, according to a press release from Trotta’s office.
The request comes after the Oct. 20 arrest of Spencer, 53. According to police, the legislator was in a county-issued vehicle when officers arrested him. Police said he allegedly planned to meet a prostitute in the parking lot of a Goodwill store in Elwood to trade sex for the pills, which were reportedly oxycodone, a legal form of an opioid. The arrest was part of an undercover operation.
Spencer also serves on the county’s opioid task force.
“It is not about my personal feelings for Doc Spencer, but it is about upholding the integrity of the office of a legislator and the perception the taxpayers have of him and the office,” Trotta said.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said Spencer had a handgun on him when he was arrested and had a permit for the gun. He handed it over after his arraignment. Trotta said such an action could have put police in danger.
“Spencer’s illegal behavior could have jeopardized the safety of the officers involved, given the fact he was carrying a handgun,” he said. “Officers have a split second in which to make a decision when they come upon a scene with a gun involved. It could have ended very differently.”
The decision to remove a legislator from a committee is up to presiding officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). Calarco said at this point in time there are two legislators who are facing felony charges. Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic Beach) is also facing charges after being indicted in July 2019 for alleged perjury, ethics violations and other offenses in connection with his work as the former district manager of the Centereach Fire District that continued after he became legislator in 2018.
The presiding officer said both legislators believe their charges are not appropriate. Just like he hasn’t removed Sunderman from his committees, he said, he will not be removing Spencer.
“I think it’s important for me to treat every legislator equally,” Calarco said. “So, I have not and will not be removing Legislator Spencer from his committee assignments for the remainder of the year.”
He said it was important for both men to have the opportunity to make their cases in court and have the judicial process unfold. However, Calarco said while Spencer remains on the committees, he is no longer chair of the Health committee. He also no longer serves as vice chair of the Ways & Means committee.
The DA has charged Spencer with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony, and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony. He was arraigned Oct. 21 at the John P. Cohalan Jr. Courthouse in Central Islip. Spencer is due back in court on Feb. 26. If convicted of the top count, he could face a maximum of up to nine years in prison.
In addition to his legislative duties, Spencer runs a private practice, Long Island Otolaryngology & Pediatric Airway in Huntington. After his arrests, Huntington Hospital temporarily suspended his privileges pending further investigation.
Spencer is not required to step down as legislator, according to county law. A representative from Spencer’s office did not return requests for statements about his arrest and Trotta’s announcement.