In light of the current fiscal discrepancy in the Southampton Town’s capital accounts, Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst is calling for a legal opinion on reorganization of the staffing, reporting systems, and processes in the town’s financial department.
On Tuesday, at a regular town board meeting, Throne-Holst had one supporter for the resolution, which she said was designed to help speed the process in determining the problems with the capital accounts.
Behind Throne-Holst in favor of the legislation was newest member to the town board, Sally Pope. Pope also introduced legislation on Tuesday, which has called for the state comptroller to come in to audit the town’s accounting systems.
In January, board members learned of a problem with the capital accounts that showed some $19 million in “missing funds.” That number has since been reduced to $250,000 and is believed to be the result of certain bonds being authorized, but never issued.
Since then, the town has made some changes, including deputy supervisor Richard Blowes stepping down from that position so he can devote his time to the capital budget discrepancy with Tamara Wright, a financial consultant, hired by the town recently on a per diem basis.
Now, councilwoman Throne-Holst has introduced legislation that would add a new position, in an effort to sort out the problems with the capital budget.
“I asked for a legal opinion to achieve a reorganization of our financial needs,” the councilwoman said and added the town is facing numerous audits at present and possibly more audits in the future.
“For those of us who have been through those processes, we know it is an enormous burden on staff and personnel,” Throne-Holst commented, and added she believes there are very talented, experienced and capable people who work for the town who can better suit the town’s needs.Â
Throne-Holst maintained she is calling for a “lateral change” for employees and is not speaking about demotions or salary changes for anyone.
“It is time for us to act and bite the bullet,” she continued.
Supervisor Linda Kabot was opposed to Throne-Holst’s proposal, arguing it should have been a joint discussion among board members and not introduced as a walk-on resolution, just minutes before the town board meeting.
“I agree that we need to take a look at what is going on here on our financial systems,” Kabot said, “But I don’t think this is time sensitive and should be introduced as a walk on. I perceived it as grandstanding at other people’s expense …Â administrators that we respect that are in this building are being sandbagged … I do not feel that this is the proper way to go about this.”
Although Kabot said there has been some discussion and “plans in the works,” for a re-organization, she argued that the board needs to work together as decision-makers. Kabot felt that learning of a position being transferred, abolished or reorganized in the media, prior to the meeting, was unconscionable to her. It was “disrespecting the process” and “not the way to treat our human beings,” she said.
Pope backed Throne-Holst’s efforts and said “sometimes you need to bring attention to something to get it to happen.”
Board member Chris Nuzzi explained that, while he wants to iron out the problem with the capital accounts, he voted against the resolution, saying this was “not the way to do it.”