The Southampton Town Board held a work session on Friday to talk about changes to the Poxabogue Golf Course, but the conversation spiraled into some missing funds from the capital budget — and how the town’s checkbooks aren’t adding up.
In what began as a conversation concerning $1.1 million worth of improvements to the golf course, town councilmember’s began requesting “real numbers” for capital projects for this year, before agreeing to spend more money on new projects. In return, board members learned that $19 million has gone unaccounted for in their accounts.
But supervisor Linda Kabot said on Tuesday that there are no “missing funds.” Instead she said, “The computerized records do not match the bank statements from the prior six years.”
Richard Blowes, Town Management Services Administrator, and his assistant Sandra Cirincione, met with town board members on Friday to talk about improvements to the golf course, but as Blowes was questioned by board member Anna Throne-Holst about the realistic situation of the capital projects for this year, Blowes informed the room that the accounts are “a mess.”
Throne-Holst added that she has been asking for the books on the capital budget for some time.
“The capital budget is saying that the department heads had $35 million, which is not there,” Blowes then informed the room. He added that there is only $16 million on hand.
“That’s news to me,” said Throne-Holst who along with Chris Nuzzi said this was the first time they had heard about this confusion with the accounts.
“We began looking at the bond issues in March ,” Blowes said. He added that the reason could be due to a bond that was authorized, butÂ never issued.
“I want that information now,” Nuzzi said in an interview on Monday. “It’s not acceptable to wait until April.”
“There is no indication of misappropriation or criminal activity,” noted Kabot in an interview on Tuesday. “It was less than stellar bookkeeping. It would have been nicer if it was nice and tidy.”
She added it was like “opening Pandora’s box” when looking at the accounts.
“I knew this was going on and I shouted in footnotes and memos, just not to media,” said Kabot who added that she has submitted 18 page-long memos in the past to try and address this issue.
The supervisor said capital projects for 2008-2009 would not be affected by the current discrepancies with the funds for the capital projects. Further, in a release sent out by her office on Monday, it stated, “old capital project account numbers have been frozen until a case-by-case analysis can be completed by the Town Comptroller and Town Management Services Administrator to assess the true fund balance for each project, and whether certain authorized bonds have yet to be issued.”
The release also stated that new accounts will be, or have been, established based upon 2008-2009 bond authorizations.
Kabot said that her priority were the operating budget deficits — including $4.5 in the police department and another $2 million in waste management — now she said it is her intention to sort out the capital budget.
“I have every confidence in Richard Blowes and his department,” Kabot said. “They will get to the bottom of this.”
“We need the bigger picture cleared up then we can begin talking about a priority list,” Throne-Holst said at the meeting. “I want to make sure we are not approving now — what should wait.”
The town board is expected to present a final, detailed report within the next few weeks and a discussion will take place on Friday among members of the town board.
On Tuesday, at a regular town board meeting, the town voted unanimously to go into a joint bond agreement with the Town of East Hampton for improvements to the Poxabogue Golf Course.
The publicly owned golf course, which nearly straddles Southampton and East Hampton towns, has requested improvements to the irrigation and driving range, to move the tee-line at the driving range and add safety fencing around the course.
East Hampton Town has agreed to the improvements and will sign an inter-municipality agreement, letting Southampton Town apply for the $1.1 million bond, which both towns will jointly repay. The revenue from the golf course is expected to cover the cost of the bond, according to Blowes.