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Feb 25, 2009 1:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Republican majority on Southampton Town Board quashes plan to restructure financial department

Feb 25, 2009 1:00 PM

“I have been asking these questions for almost a year now and still there are no answers,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “This has nothing to do with growing speculation that I’m running for supervisor. This is about getting to the bottom of these numbers, which I have been trying to do since I took office.”

Though they did not take her to task as did Ms. Kabot, both Mr. Nuzzi and Ms. Graboski said they agreed with the supervisor in that Ms. Throne-Holst was out of line by speaking to the press.

Mr. Nuzzi, who had been in lock-step with Ms. Throne-Holst over the state of the town’s capital budget—recently joining her in calling for a forensic, independent auditing and has at times grown visibly frustrated at the delay in getting answers—said he supported his colleague in principle in terms of reorganization. Still, he preferred a different process for getting there.

“We should collectively work together,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “There’s an orderly and rational way to discuss these matters. I’m not sure the idea of a press release is the best way.”

Ms. Kabot was more blunt in her criticism of Ms. Throne-Holst’s treatment of Mr. Brautigam, who was on vacation this week. “That is no way to treat human beings,” she said.

Ms. Throne-Holst insisted that her proposal was not intended as an attack on the comptroller. “This is not a condemnation of Steve,” she said. “It’s about putting our most talented people where they are best suited.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she planned on speaking with the comptroller before he left for vacation, but added that the town’s financial problems took precedent. “Steve has extensive experience with audits and controls and that’s where I think he can provide the best service for the town, which is my main concern,” she said. “But a town of this size and complexity requires the experience and expertise of someone like Tamara. It’s time to act.”

Ms. Kabot said she also took issue with the concept of creating a finance commissioner in Southampton Town. “I don’t want to have a cookie-cutter system like Brookhaven,” she said, noting that Ms. Throne-Holst’s plan mirrors the structure of its neighbor to the west.

Even though Ms. Throne-Holst’s measure was rejected, there remains a general consensus on the board that the town must restructure its financial department. Ms. Kabot noted that her opposition to the original plan does not reflect her opinion of Ms. Wright. “We all agree that Tamara is a great person,” said Ms. Kabot, noting that Ms. Wright would be a bargain at $85,000. “I’ll be the first to say that she’s top-notch.”

The Town Board hired Ms. Wright last June as a financial consultant to help manage the town’s financial systems and budgeting procedures. In her initial contract with the town, Ms. Wright was retained for 90 days at $450 per diem, not to exceed $40,500. In December, her contract was extended for another year for an amount not to exceed $50,000.

Ms. Wright has worked as a manager for Price-Waterhouse in New York City and as the director and senior vice president of Prudential Securities Futures Management, Inc. where, for 16 years, she handled financial securities and private banking both in the United States and abroad. Her last job title at Prudential was chief operating officer and she was responsible for international finance, information systems, human resources and internal audits.

“Tamara is someone who thinks very clearly and in the short time she’s been here, she’s shown that she really has a good grasp of the financial oversight and reporting we need,” Ms. Pope said. “We really owe her a debt of gratitude. This is a measure we should all support.”

Frustrated with the ongoing process of trying to sort out the town’s capital budget discrepancies, Ms. Throne-Holst said Friday’s Town Board work session pushed her over the top. During a discussion pertaining to an upgrade in the town’s financial software, Mr. Nuzzi asked Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes how much the town has spent to date on the system. That information was not available.

“That raised several concerns,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “That’s the sort of information that should be readily available.”

Ms. Throne-Holst characterized Ms. Wright, who holds a master’s degree in accountancy from Virginia Tech University, as someone with the financial expertise and leadership needed to reorganize and straighten out the books at Town Hall. The councilwoman also characterized the weekly work sessions aimed at ironing out the town’s financial mess as “dog and pony shows” that raise only more questions and provide few answers.

“We’re constantly told the information is coming,” she said. “But I’ve been asking these questions since March. Time’s up.”

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So let me see...Wright has been there getting paid $400 + a day since April, the books are a mess, no one knows what the balances are and she couldn't find the accounting files that were left behind in the comptrollers office.
Yeah, let's hire her for $110K per year, sounds like she can straighten it out.
And le't keep the comptroller there too, 80K and all he has to do is show up.
Since we're taking Information Technology away from Blowes are we reducing his inflated salary?
Sounds ...more
By Hamptonman911 (14), Southampton on Feb 24, 09 8:24 AM
It's amazing. Ms. Throne-Holst wants us to believe in her and trust her. One day while I was in town hall I saw a little dog running around, barking. When I made a comment about the poorly trained, unleashed service dog I was informed that it was Ms. Throne-Holst's dog and not a service dog. Because she is a counsel member the 'Service Dogs Only' laws and the 'leash laws' do not apply to her. What other laws don't apply to her?
By NativeHalsey (1), Southampton on Feb 24, 09 8:42 AM
This is getting a little too messy as far as I am concerned. Brautigan and Blowes should be escorted out of Town Hall. These guys seem to have too much authority and too little accountability.

The State Comptroller's office needs to get here ASAP and jump all over this.

By William Rodney (561), southampton on Feb 24, 09 9:07 AM
Sounds great!

Instead of making current employees actually accountable and mandate that they do the jobs they are supposed to do, lets make up additional positons with cushy benefits and pensions!!


I would like to throw my hat in the ring for the 'Czar of Budgeting' positon that will inevitably be coming. Or perhaps 'Minister of Capital Accounts'

By C Law (354), Water Mill on Feb 24, 09 9:11 AM
Enough of this-no more public meetings or statements about the town's financial problems. We can't let everyone know what a mess we have on our hands. Back to keeping the information a secret.
Thank the Southampton Press for causing all these problems.
By eastquogueguy (22), East Quogue on Feb 24, 09 9:26 AM
I too would like to offer my services to the Town. I will accept a salary of $100,000 per year, use of a Town owed car, pension and medical benefits.

In exchange, I will shuffle paper all day, release statements to the Press that I am working hard and expect to have the Town's financial problems fixed shortly once I fix the mess caused by the Administration that left office in 1962.

Plus, I get bonus if I reconcile the missing money in the capital budget before OJ finds ...more
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Feb 24, 09 9:54 AM
Why should the taxpayers foot the bill for another person to oversee town finances at a salary of $110,000 per year with benefits? I think the taxpayers should get rid of Blowes, Bratigam and most of all Kabot and get people in office who are more capable of managing public money. What a mess this has turned out to be.
By fdp (23), southampton on Feb 24, 09 10:10 AM
Thanks to the Southampton Press for exposing some of the financial problems. We still don't know what remains hidden behind Richard Blowes office doors. We need still more and total transparency.

Sally Pope is right! Let's get the state in to evaluate the accounting process mess. We don't even know how much money we have on hand. How in Heaven's name can we move on?
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Feb 24, 09 10:52 AM
After living with the current leadership, it is clear that the Town of Southampton needs a major financial shake-up. The current group does not seem to know what they are doing...That includes our current supervisor. A-T-H has been asking for real numbers for a year, and she is an elected official, a councilwoman. If she cannot get real numbers then how can the rest of us get the bottom lines from the Supervisors office. I welcome this reorganization. After reading the article, this is not going ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Feb 24, 09 11:19 AM
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Feb 24, 09 6:31 PM
You're doin' a heck of a job, Blowesey.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 25, 09 12:02 AM
Accountability has been a four letter word in Town Hall for too long. The proposal outlined in this article does not appear to add one dollar of cost to the Town while achieving a much higher degree of accountability. Of course, given the track record of this administration any accountability will be a higher degree of accountability. What will be interesting to watch is how the supervisor will twist this proposal into a whiney criticism of the newspapers, or Ms. Throne-Holst, or anyone who see ...more
By Viewpoint (26), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 7:23 AM
Thats great. Lets knock down a person salary by $32,000 and give someone else a huge raise that hasn't been there that long. You can pay me the $450 a day or $110,000 plus benefits a year to tell the town what they need to buy and what they dont need to buy. It seems as if when people start slacking, the administration doesn't put their foot down and take action on the problem. The only thing they do to fix it is create another position in hopes that thesituation will resolve itself. Just another ...more
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 8:49 AM
No more new positions-too much is being revealed to the public already. How can we get our work done with the public looking over our shoulders all the time. Please bring back Skip.
By EmployeeSH (4), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 11:38 AM
What is ONE UPMANSHIP? It sounds to me like Linda Kabot protests too much. Perhaps if Kabot had any idea of how to lead, we would not be in this mess. Oh well, I guess we will stay with the same group who could not figure this out in a year. "Bring in the state."
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 2:30 PM
If Ms. Kabot had the time to write an e-mail in protest, then I am sure she had time to draft a counter proposal. Would the Press publish it please?

By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 3:31 PM
Ms Wright seems to be just what the doctor ordered. It's clear that Anna Throne-Holst is providing leadership and attempting mightily to straighten out the financial mess. Kudos to Sally Pope also; she called for a state audit during last year's campaign.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Feb 25, 09 5:05 PM
Way to go Linda-lets get back to business as usual.
By EmployeeSH (4), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 9:17 PM
Why is there a problem with the budget? There's nothing complicated about a town budget. Salaries are tied to headcount, along with benefits with those salaries. Pensions for past employees are defined and managed by the state pension fund anyway, aren't they? The rest of it is capital projects, which are bid out and funded, and therefore individually accounted for by each project separately. If the project hasn't begun, then it is a "pending" spreadsheet. Any 2nd year CPA at any medium sized ...more
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Feb 25, 09 11:56 PM
Hey Davidf...do you want a job? The Supervisors office could use a bit of direction in this area. I agree that A T-H found the right person. I hope that the majority will seriously reconsider this reorganization in town hall. A T-H has good, clear ideas and Kabot is doing her best to put down those initiatives. Linda Kabot is showing her leadership style by crushing good ideas which will work well for the people of the town. This obstructionism seems to be one of the biggest problems in town hall.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Feb 26, 09 8:49 AM
Interesting that Charlene Kagel handled the department expertly for five years for less than $100,000. She resigned in part because she said she did not trust Linda as the chief financial office. Boy was she right!
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Feb 26, 09 9:10 AM
Linda Kabot approval rating: .01% (herself)
By landarchi (33), Southampton on Feb 26, 09 10:18 AM
Glad the Republicans stuck together and stopped these silly ideas before things really get out of hand. Back to business as usual.
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Feb 26, 09 4:06 PM
It is just too bad that the revolution of enlightened thought passed right over Southampton. The Republican party has been marginalized all around us, but here the same old tactics and ideologies are still warmly embraced. We need to get with the rest of the country and we need to do it soon.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Feb 27, 09 12:25 AM
This is starting to sound like Easthampton all over again

Lets see….. financial problems hire
a financial consultant when that becomes a disaster… then get rid of that person and
hire a CPA …on the road to recovery

Southampton…….hire a financial person to the comptrollers
position……..that becomes a problem ….lets get rid of that person and hire another financial person…..what does the future bring?

Thiele is drafting legislation requiring comptrollers
be ...more
By Hamptonman911 (14), Southampton on Feb 28, 09 8:39 AM
Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst is acting in the interest of the community....what are you doing Supervisor Kabot? Sounds like it's either your way or the highway.....clearly fiscal irresponsibility is the "business as usual" that some want and few benefit from. What has happened to open honest government? Ms. Kabot "supervisor" does not mean Queen for a day.
By JVB (7), Westhampton on Mar 2, 09 6:30 PM