WOODBURY - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone received an anonymous letter in December 2011 warning him that appointing James Burke as chief of the county's police department would result in scandal.
The letter, obtained by Newsday, was confirmed to News 12 Long Island by Bellone Monday. He appointed Burke to the post of Suffolk County police chief in 2012 despite the letter.
"People could say a lot of things anonymously," Bellone said.
The letter was signed by "several longtime members of the Suffolk Police Department" and detailed a number of accusations against Burke, alleging that he "was known to frequent prostitutes." It claimed that he broke into a home to retrieve a gun that had been stolen from him.
The letter also warned that Burke "routinely threatens subordinates."
Bellone says he asked Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota about the letter's allegations. Burke was working as an investigator for Spota at the time.
"And I said, 'Tom, is there anything to it?' and he said, 'No we've investigated all that,'" Bellone told News 12.
When asked why he didn't look into internal affairs reports on his own, Bellone said he trusted Spota's judgment.
"There was no better source to say there are no issues here," Bellone said of the district attorney. "That was the end of the story for me."
A 1995 internal affairs report mentions accusations of meeting prostitutes and that Burke lost his department-issued gun.
Four years after Bellone received the letter, the FBI arrested Burke at his home in connection with the assault of a suspect that was later covered up. Burke has since pleaded guilty in that case.
Bellone said he initially met Burke through Democratic Party Chairman Richard Schaffer.
Schaffer confirmed to News 12 that he introduced the two, but said he had no knowledge of Burke's departmental problems.
"There were rumors, and he said there weren't truth to those rumors," Schaffer said. "And I don't have access to his personnel file…Who would have access to the file? That would be the county executive-elect or the county executive."
When News 12 asked Spota’s office if he ever reassured Bellone about Burke's internal affairs file or vouched for his character, a spokesman said "the district attorney did no such thing."
But Bellone disagreed.
"Tom Spota has worked to build Jim Burke's career the entire time he's been in Suffolk County, and he [Burke] was head of investigations for the DA for eight years, so I don't think it's very credible to say the DA was not vouching for Jim Burke," Bellone said.