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Opportunity for Transparency

Posted on 06 February 2009

Last week, elected officials in the Town of Southampton seemed to justify why nearly $20 million dollars in the town’s accounts were unaccounted for. The “missing” funds were explained as bonds that were authorized but never issued. And now the town is reviewing all the capital projects to determine the reason behind the discrepancy.

We believe while the problem here is that money has been misplaced and there are sloppy accounting procedures going on at town hall, the biggest problem lies with the miscommunication of the town board and the failure to be transparent in their workings.

The community was blindsided to learn of the “misplaced money” in the capital accounts when this news was released. The accounting has been done so poorly we actually believed the town misplaced $19 million. If East Hampton’s recent financial woes have not been enough of a wake up call for Southampton, perhaps this misstep will be. Clearly this is not turning out to be nearly the debacle our neighbor to the east is experiencing, but the impression of a missing $19 million is not comforting — especially for nervous taxpayers of Southampton Town.

Clearly, we agree that resolving the capital budget is the priority at this point, but it is unfortunate that the town now needs to spend so much time on resolving the issues when there are many other matters that need to be addressed.

We believe that by putting Richard Blowes on the case purely to work on the capital budget is a smart move. Supervisor Linda Kabot appointed Bill Jones to Blowes’ old position of deputy supervisor this week, and we can only hope he will begin to resolve the current miscommunications which seem to be occurring among members of the board.

While we appreciate how hard the Town of Southampton seems to be working now to straighten out its financial problems, we feel it was a step that should have been taken a long time ago.

We believe that a work session on one single capital project should not be the arena in which board members are made aware of a major monetary inconsistency in the town’s accounts. Hearing the disclosure of both councilman Chris Nuzzi and councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst who repeatedly asked to see the capital budget, but were not given the document, makes us concerned for the relationship between board members and citizens of the town.

Sitting on the outside looking in, we see how these two elected officials were confused and left in the dark. Imagine how the public must feel when it doesn’t have access to that kind of information.

Town officials are supposed to be transparent in all they do, especially where dealings with the town’s finances are concerned — but this has been murky at best. And we’ve seen far too much of this kind of thing around here lately.

 

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