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Oct 12, 2011 11:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sparks Fly Over Debate On Budget Calendar

Oct 12, 2011 12:05 PM

A fiery debate erupted at a Southampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday over a proposal to alter Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s 2012 budget adoption calendar—a schedule of when the public will be allowed to comment on the spending plan and when the board should vote on it—prompting finger-pointing, verbal attacks and accusations of partisan politics among board members.

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said at the beginning of the meeting that she was going to walk on resolutions that would convert Ms. Throne-Holst’s tentative $80.2 million budget into a preliminary budget that day, and another resolution to set a public hearing on the preliminary budget for October 25, allowing for at least two public hearings. By Ms. Throne-Holst’s calendar—which was approved unanimously by the board in July—the budget would be converted into a preliminary budget on October 25, with one public hearing scheduled for November 9. According to New York State guidelines, the budget must be adopted by November 18, and public hearings must be closed by November 15.

Ultimately, the board agreed to hear public comments on the budget during regular Friday work sessions until adoption.

The walk-on resolutions sparked a lengthy and heated conversation among the board members, with members talking over each other, yelling, and bitterly reminiscing about last year’s divisive budget process. That included revisiting the highly controversial appointment of Russell Kratoville last year to a $150,000 top management position that was slated for elimination under Ms. Throne-Holst’s budget.

Ms. Throne-Holst reacted sharply to Ms. Graboski’s walk-on resolutions and said it was coming forward at the request of Marietta Seaman, a former vice chairwoman of the Southampton Town Republican Committee and former elected town clerk and councilwoman. Ms. Seaman sent an email to Town Board members about her concern that there was only one public hearing scheduled on the budget before its scheduled adoption—on November 9, the day after Election Day.

“I don’t know about all of you, but I don’t see myself answerable to a party boss here,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, referring to Ms. Seaman.

The supervisor suggested that Ms. Graboski’s measure would take the “fire off the feet” of other Town Board members, allowing them to avoid making timely amendments or changes that could be reflected in the preliminary budget and fully vetted by the public before adoption.

Also, she and Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming revisited the past—claiming that last year the Republican-Conservative majority on the Town Board brought on a flurry of last-minute resolutions that completely changed the budget, while offering no chance for public input on the changes.

“On November 18, without any public hearing, the majority of this board brought on a blizzard of resolutions that completely eviscerated the budget …” said Ms. Fleming. “Unfortunately, it feels to me like, here we go again.”

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi jumped into the argument and stressed that last year’s amendments were filed on time, not at the last minute, and that the only person who walked on resolutions the day of budget adoption was Ms. Throne-Holst. They were filed several days before the budget adoption meeting.

He also criticized Ms. Throne-Holst for abstaining from the budget vote last year. He said he felt that adding another public hearing “doesn’t sound like the worst idea.”

“Turn it off to the cameras and the press, and get back to reality,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

Ms. Graboski said her walk-on resolutions were meant to create another opportunity for the public to weigh in on the budget process. In a conversation after the Town Board meeting, Ms. Graboski explained that she received a phone call from Ms. Seaman about her concerns last Friday, which prompted her to forward an email to town attorneys and Town Board members on Sunday outlining the change she was going to walk on at Tuesday’s meeting. Also, she attached a history of budget calendars dating back to 2002, and emphasized that in no other year did the Town Board schedule fewer than two public hearings on the budget.

“I would just add that what was propelling me in this direction was a certain frustration with the fact that the first public hearing that is proposed to be held will be held on November 9,” Ms. Graboski said at the meeting. “The public hearing must be closed by November 15. That leaves a very short window for public participation in the budget process.”

After the meeting, she said she didn’t understand why Ms. Fleming and Ms. Throne-Holst were drawing connections to last year’s process. “To make linkage back to what happened last year, I don’t get that,” she said. “I mean I just don’t get that.”

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Can we please have this take place at a more reasonable hour in the town square? Perhaps SH Movie Theater would be a good location. We could eat popcorn and laugh while we watch politicians talk about our money and budgeting.
By senior sparky II (2), southampton on Oct 12, 11 5:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
I love it when ATH gets rattled-way to go Nancy. We need someone to represent the public.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Oct 12, 11 6:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just asking......but does anyone remember Kabot having a public hearing when she took over for Heaney and completely dissected his budget? Now she is jumping on the public hearing "band wagon". Hmmmmmm. Sounds like politics as usual.
By Mom of 2 (12), flanders on Oct 12, 11 6:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Very interesting. Mr Kratoville worked at the defunct and political OTB as a business manager. Marietta Seaman also had a political patronage job at OTB doing God knows what. It seems Mrs Seaman has an open line to the Republican board members and especially Mrs Graboski. Now I have an idea where the Kratoville appointment came from. What does this business manager do anyway? We have a five million dollar budget gap, how did this manager help us?
I'm a registered Republican, and I'm sick of ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 12, 11 7:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Vote Kabot and bring dignity back to the office
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Oct 13, 11 3:51 AM
Vote Kabot and bring cocktails to the office
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Oct 13, 11 9:10 AM
Bring back Kabot and bring back an ineffective, incapable leader who can't admit to mistakes and did NOTHING while in office except play petty politics and mismanage our money. I can't wait for Kabot to be a two-time loser in this election and move on with her life.
By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on Oct 13, 11 9:22 AM
1 member liked this comment

RealLocal, whoa, whoa, before you have a coronanary. Please support your statement with something intelligible instead of just your hysterics. If Kabot did nothing but mistakes, what is Anna doing presenting a carbon copy of Linda's main budget initiatives to fix the fiscal mess created by Anna's ally, Skip Heaney. To wit:

1)Cut $5 Million from the previous year's budget to lessen the load on the taxpayers in a crumbling economy.
2)Conform to Town Law that states that overstaying ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 13, 11 12:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Chief1 has it right. Countess Marietta gave out the order to the Repub/Conserv majority on the Town Bd to rescue her OTB buddy, Russ Kratoville, from the sinking ship (OTB), no matter what. They did it, a little reluctantly, I think, because even they (Nuzzi, Graboski, Malone) saw how heavy-handed it was, putting Kratoville in that big job over massive objections from everybody. Now, with the fallout still coming, Nuzzi, Graboski and Malobne say to the Countess, "See what you made us do? See ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Oct 13, 11 11:31 AM
The problem is that Marietta Seaman lacks the light touch. She could have gotten Mr. Kratoville appointed last year with much less sound and fury, just by allowing time for public input and review, but she didn't. Some of us thought it was rushed to get it done before the discovery of some flaw in Mr. Kratoville's record. There were a few -- a $3.5 million wrongful termination suit against Riverhead town, a role in OTB's shaky finances, and the loss of Republican Committee records -- but they ...more
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Oct 13, 11 12:00 PM
I don't think thaat politicians have realized that politics as usual are becoming less exceptable to voters. Half of town hall is filled with relatives of past and present politicians. I can't believe in this economic enviroment the town couldn't find a person more qualified than Mr Kratoville for less money. Time to vote these bums out. The Southampton Republican Party has become a clown show with no end in sight.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 13, 11 2:35 PM