Hike funding

NY GOP House candidates pushed to limit police funding

Two Republican candidates vying for hotly contested seats in New York’s Congress have presided over efforts to cut police salaries in the official positions they once held – a policy stance that runs counter to attacks more GOP broads against defunding the police.

One of those congressional candidates is Nick LaLota, who is running to fill the Suffolk County congressional seat that will be vacated by GOP gubernatorial candidate Representative Lee Zeldin next year.

A Navy veteran who spoke about the need to curb crime on the campaign trail, LaLota is running against Bridget Fleming, a Suffolk County legislator who won the endorsement of the county’s local police union.

LaLota previously worked as a budget officer in Amityville, where he pushed the local police union to cut cops’ salaries by reopening their contracts.

In 2015, LaLota was a central player in the village council’s plan to cut cop pay by an average of $4,000 a year, according to Newsday. At the time, he argued that high police salaries threatened the financial health of the village and called the cost-cutting measure generous because the local government was not seeking to claw back other benefits already written into the contract of the local police union.

“We wanted to be as liberal as possible” he said of the plan at the time.

The fight between LaLota and the local cops lasted for years and became increasingly contentious over time.

“Once again Nick LaLota is using the Amityville PD and PBA as a punching bag by attacking officers and manipulating statistics for his own political aspirations. For years we have been repeatedly bullied, insulted and scapegoated for Amityville’s First Party’s fiscal mismanagement and lack of leadership,” said the PBA of Amityville. published on Facebook in 2017. “Despite claims that they are committed to public safety citing their hiring of new officers to replace retirees, ODA is staffed at its lowest level since 1975. This has forced our officers to repeatedly go on rounds with minimal labor, no supervision and triple overtime. , all of which are detrimental to public safety.

LaLota was at the time a member of the first party of Amityville, which was accused in mailings of want to disband the police department.

A LaLota spokesman, James Zenn, said his boss faced a budget shortfall when he first took the Amityville job. He noted that LaLota is “extremely pro-police” and accused Fleming of suggesting that funding should be diverted from the police in 2020 and redirected to other agencies to fight crime.

“No officer took a pay cut,” Zenn said of Amityville’s budget maneuvering.

This undated photo shows Nick J. LaLota.

Fleming’s campaign offered a different interpretation.

“There is a reason the Long Island police have refused to support extremist Nick LaLota – he is a danger to law enforcement and public safety,” Fleming spokeswoman Nebeyatt said. To be. “Police endorsed Bridget Fleming because she always recognized the importance of law enforcement in local communities and, unlike LaLota, helped law enforcement get the funding they needed. to do their job.”

Another GOP congressional candidate, Michael Lawler, was also involved in a campaign to cut police funding, but under different circumstances.

Lawler, who is now running to overthrow Dem representing incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney in the Hudson Valley, made the so-called defunding of the police movement a bogeyman before launching his current political race.

“Fund the police? Be realistic,” he said at a Back the Blue rally in 2020 as he ran for state assembly. “To all the woke and weak politicians who gave in to activist demands and put politics ahead of the safety of all New Yorkers, I say to you today: you are responsible for this collapse in our country, not the law enforcement.

More recently, Lawler attacked Maloney for supporting bail reform, a stance he called soft on crime.

New York State Assemblyman Michael Lawler (R-Pearl River)

But in a previous job as senior adviser to the Westchester County Executive, Lawler was part of a budget process that cut funding for the county’s police force by nearly $2 million, the documents show. budgets.

Once elected to the Assembly, he also, with a majority of Republicans, voted against a budget bill in 2021 that provided $10 million for crime reduction efforts.

“There are hundreds of items in a specific budget bill,” Lawler said in an email to The News. “I voted against this specific budget bill because it provided $2.1 billion for unemployment benefits for illegal immigrants.”

But these moves did not go unnoticed by his opponent.

“While Lawler literally canceled police funding in Westchester and voted against funding law enforcement in Albany, Rep. Maloney has given $7 million to local police departments,” the spokeswoman said. of the Maloney campaign, Mia Ehrenberg.Voters will not fall for MAGA Mike’s trap.

Lawler laughed when asked about his budget position at Westchester and referred questions to his spokesman Bill O’Reilly, who said Lawler had “nothing to do with” that budget process.

Former Westchester County manager Rob Astorino acknowledged that Lawler had “helped me with the process over the years,” but said he doesn’t recall him weighing in on fundraising specifically. county cops. Astorino added that the general intention during the budget process was to keep spending levels low to avoid higher taxes.

O’Reilly noted that Lawler resigned from his post in August 2016 and the budget passed in October. But Lawler’s LinkedIn page shows that he “consults[ed] with and offers[ed] suggestions to the county executive, deputy county executive, and budget manager regarding the county budget. »

When asked about this, O’Reilly doubled down on his original answer.

“Come on man – are you kidding me?” he said.