Southampton Town Hall will undergo an administrative reshuffling in the Comptroller’s office. During a work session on Friday, May 22, town supervisor Linda Kabot announced by way of a resolution that as of June 1, Tamara Wright will be appointed as the town comptroller. Wright will serve out the remainder of current comptroller Steve Brautigam’s term, which expires in December 2009.
Since July 2008, Wright has worked as a financial consultant to the town. Brautigam will take over the position of Assistant Town Management Services Administrator, working under the authority of Richard Blowes, the town services administrator.
In addition to the new appointments, the duties of comptroller and assistant town administrator will be segregated. As always, the comptroller will oversee the financial reporting and accounting for the town, but the assistant town administrator will be responsible for many of the functions of the town’s capital program. Steve Brautigam will also coordinate between the town and the state comptroller, when the state conducts a risk analysis and audit. The state will likely commence the audit at the end of the summer or early fall, according to deputy supervisor Bill Jones.
“The intent of the re-organization is to provide greater leadership and strategic management for the comptroller’s office in terms of financial reporting and use of technology and staff resources to accomplish critical accounting duties for the town,” said Kabot in a press release distributed by the town last week.
“This reflects what I proposed several weeks ago,” councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst chimed in. “This comes at a time when we need to re-organize our financial oversight in the town.”
The decision appeared unanimous on the board, until councilman Chris Nuzzi raised complaints over Wright and Brautigam’s appointments.
“For months, I have raised numerous questions regarding how our current comptroller is performing in his job … Now it is my understanding that this inability is being rewarded with a $100,000 a year taxpayer-funded job offering … full benefits. This is completely and utterly unacceptable,” said Nuzzi in a statement released on Friday.
“In light of the continuing deliberation on budgetary numbers, capital dollars authorized and spent, authorized and unspent, fund balance amounts and budget reconciliations that have yet to be completed, I am calling for the withdrawal of this resolution,” continued Nuzzi.
According to Nuzzi, the resolution was previously discussed at a meeting attended by only four other board members, excluding himself, the supervisor’s office and the office of general services. He added that the decision of the new appointments was made “under the cloak of darkness” and that it was imprudent to vote on the resolution before a holiday weekend.
In his statement, Nuzzi recommended the town advertise for the comptroller’s position, conduct interviews in June and hold off on creating a new position in the office of general services.
Other members of the board, including Throne-Holst and councilwoman Sally Pope, strongly disagreed with Nuzzi’s statements saying the board had discussed the reorganization of the comptroller’s office for several months.
“We have discussed this issue for far too long without taking action. Yes we could have voted [on this resolution] at a regular board meeting, but we are not adding budget line. We are doing what we should have done a long time ago,” countered Throne-Holst.
“We have multiple audits underway. There is no question that our staff is being pulled away from the day to day operations of the town,” added councilwoman Nancy Graboski. “we need to have financial personnel who are on the inside.”
Kabot informed the audience that the resolution was budget neutral, meaning the town had already budgeted for the salaries of the comptroller and assistant town administrator. Wright will earn $115,000 a year, while Brautigam will earn $100,000. The town will also eliminate the director of audit and control position with a salary of $85,000.
Nuzzi’s comments did little to sway the other board member’s opinions and the resolution was passed.