Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio during the Riverhead Republican Committee convention in May, when Giglio edged out Walter for the committee designation for supervisor by half a vote. File photos: Denise Civiletti

The Suffolk police union’s super-PAC pumped $165,680 into its campaign to defeat incumbent Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and elect his challenger Councilwoman Jodi Giglio this year, according to the super-PAC’s New York State campaign finance reports.

The amount the group spent on the Riverhead supervisor’s race was nearly three times what it spent on any other race in this election year. The super-PAC spent money on a host of county legislative races and on behalf of county executive Steve Bellone. The most it spent on any other single race this year was $58,202.68 expended on behalf of incumbent County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey. The only other expenditure it reported on behalf of a candidate for town office was $3,762.78 for Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine.

The Riverhead supervisor’s race was the only one outside of the Suffolk County police district that the Suffolk PBA super-PAC spent any money on this year.

Walter pointed to the campaign waged by the group — attack ads on the internet, and radio, mobile billboards and a slew of mailers — as evidence of the Suffolk County police union’s effort to expand the county police district into the Town of Riverhead.

The Suffolk PBA president — and president of the super-PAC — Noel DiGerolamo vehemently denied that charge, insisting that the county police union was involved in the Riverhead campaign only because it considered the incumbent supervisor “incompetent.”

Walter argued that Giglio promised the police union she’d put a referendum before voters on the question of Riverhead becoming part of the county police district — an option rejected by the voters of Riverhead and the other four East End towns decades ago, when the county police department was established in 1960. Giglio, running with two retired Riverhead cops for town board, denied that she made any such promise and pledged to keep the town police department.

Walter countered that there could be no other reason why the county police union was so interested in the Riverhead town race that it would spend what he estimated during the campaign an amount in excess of $100,000 to unseat him.

The Suffolk County PBA in 2015 funded the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation super-PAC to the tune of $730,000. Those funds come from contributions by the Suffolk PBA’s Education and Issue Advocacy Fund, which in turn is funded by a $28 bi-weekly Suffolk PBA member assessment (over and above regular union dues) that’s deducted from members’ paychecks.

The Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation is an independent expenditure-only committee, formed in 2011 following the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed such a committee to raise unlimited cash from corporations, unions, associations and individuals and spend unlimited sums to advocate for or against political candidates. However, campaign finance rules prohibit these types of committees from making direct contributions to a candidate’s campaign.

After losing the Republican party nomination to Giglio in a bitterly fought primary campaign in which the county police union super-PAC had a strong presence, Walter ran on the Conservative line in a three-way race in the general election. Walter polled 3,027 votes to Giglio’s 2,607. Democratic candidate Anthony Coates trailed with 1,879 votes.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.