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Oct 28, 2009 2:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town candidates debate town finances, services

Oct 28, 2009 2:09 PM

Candidates for Southampton Town supervisor and Town Board verbally brawled over the town budget, services and one another’s political records at a debate in Southampton Village on Thursday co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and The Southampton Press.

Supervisor Linda Kabot, a Republican up for reelection this November 3, defended her record from attacks by opponent Anna Throne-Holst, running with the Democratic endorsement, who said “too little much too late” has been done to fix the town’s multimillion-dollar budget woes.

The evening debate also included rapid-fire exchanges from board candidates Bridget Fleming and incumbent Councilwoman Sally Pope, both Democrats, and James Malone and incumbent Councilman Christopher Nuzzi, both Republicans.

Referring to an ongoing audit of the town’s capital fund spending spanning 2003 to the present, Ms. Throne-Holst criticized the audit’s lack of final results. The audit, which began in June, has revealed more than $11 million in faulty transactions from 2003 through 2007, but has yet to identify the extent of town deficits, which could be as steep as $10 million or more.

Officials expect final audit results as early as next week, but that did not 
stop Ms. Throne-Holst, a former executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center who was elected to the Town Board in 2007, 
from blasting Ms. Kabot.

“Isn’t it amazing that we don’t already know what the [budget deficit] numbers are?” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “This [election] is about bringing some real management to the town. ... It’s also about bringing some real financial management to this town.”

Ms. Kabot, who was first elected to the Town Board in 2001 and subsequently elected supervisor in 2007, shot back that Ms. Throne-Holst was distorting her record. “Don’t buy the revisionist history that is being offered by others,” she said. The supervisor explained the audit has been hampered by “six years of accounting records [that] needed to be reconciled.”

She added, “I have been doing the heavy lifting. I have been working tirelessly and around the clock for you and your family. No stone has been left unturned.”

Both supervisor candidates claimed personal strengths including administrative experience and the ability to work with others.

Still, Ms. Kabot said the town will be fighting demands by the Southampton Patrolman’s Benevolent Association [PBA] for a 4-percent pay increase for its nearly 100 members. Next year, the town is expected to begin arbitration with the PBA to resolve a contract negotiation impasse that began last year.

Ms. Kabot said the town cannot afford a 4-percent raise for police officers—especially since her proposed $78 million budget calls for 44 layoffs of various full-time workers, an across-the-board wage freeze and the privatization of the town’s animal shelter.

“There is a nationwide recession, and 4-percent wage increases is not acceptable,” Ms. Kabot said, adding that her budget follows through on a campaign pledge to cut “wasteful” spending.

Ms. Throne-Holst argued that the PBA in negotiations offered concessions to avoid arbitration, but those concessions were ignored by the Kabot administration. Ms. Kabot countered that officers would have been working fewer days out of the year as a result of the concessions.

“[This election] is about a different approach and about new results,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Following the supervisor debate, Town Board candidates sparred on issues including affordable housing and waste management.

But at one point, all four board candidates agreed that past town officials should not be prosecuted for accounting errors that have plagued the town’s finances since 2003. At the debate Ms. Kabot called for the Town Board to consider litigation.

“Why look backward,” said Mr. Malone, a deputy Suffolk County clerk. “Why go on a witch hunt?”

Ms. Fleming, a lawyer from Sag Harbor, agreed. “We need to look forward,” she said.

Responding to a question about whether affordable housing will be placed on the back burner next year due to the national economic slowdown, Mr. Nuzzi, who was elected in 2005, said the town plans to continue working with groups including the Southampton Business Alliance and Long Island Housing Partnership to bring affordable housing to communities.

“I don’t think it will be placed on the back burner,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “There is still more we can do.”

But Ms. Pope, who was elected in 2008 to fill Ms. Kabot unexpired term, skewered Mr. Nuzzi by saying the town has not done enough.

“We need to take it off the back burner. It has been on the back burner for too many years,” Ms. Pope said. “There have been a few private initiatives that Mr. Nuzzi mentioned, but we have never taken it off the back burner.”

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Linda: This happened on your watch. Where were you, what were you doing, and why haven't you uncovered this before? The town budget is YOUR responsibility as supervisor, and you have failed miserably. It was YOUR responsibility as a town board member, and you failed miserably. Now taxpayers must pay for YOUR mistakes.

Heavy lifting? That would be trying to convince voters that you are the solution to problems that you were complicit in creating.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 26, 09 9:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Again, as at the Hampton Bays Civic Association debate a few nights before, the candidates who have been in office for a long time, Linda Kabot (13 yrs.) and Chris Nuzzi (4 yrs.), asked for more time to fix the mess the Town is in. The candidates who have only been in office for a short time, Anna Throne-Holst (2 yrs.) and Sally Pope (1 yr.), said these folks have had long enough, and it's time to let some new people have a try.

There's a lot more to it than that, but the basic message ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 27, 09 12:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Independent has it right:

By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Oct 28, 09 2:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Jerry is a self-serving moron. Nuzzi is a useless party hack.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 28, 09 4:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Noah Way, I couldn't have said it better myself. You were kinder towards LK than I would be, as she is a mean-spirited candidate and a phony.
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Oct 28, 09 2:49 PM
since when has a union offered "cost savings" to fund a contract? The purpose of a union is "more", not less. The PBA wants to go to 12 hour shifts, probably a spin-off on whats called a 2-3-2 that is work 2 days, take 3 off, work 3 days, take 3 off, work 2 days, take 4 off - or some variation of this. It means you work the same total hours but you come to work 154 times a year, not the current 232 (thats before sick leave and vacation). The union will spin this as a savings of overtime and it will ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Oct 28, 09 4:05 PM
2 members liked this comment
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Oct 28, 09 7:06 PM
ATH's opening & closing statement both cited that there would be no "fingerpointing" and it was "inappropriate" to cast blame on previous supervisors for any Town problems- that we should "look ahead." (Im quoting her where you see my quotes.( HOWEVER I had to laugh thru the entire thing b/c the whole time she kept blaming Linda for nearly everything. And too bad for ATH that she doesnt have much stage presence. She kinda blew it in that area.
Seriously, I was waiting for ATH to "look ahead ...more
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Oct 28, 09 7:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't have gotten into this budget mess if Linda and her pals had been "working tirelessly and around the clock" (her words, not mine) for the past 6 years instead of the past 6 weeks.

It would be so refreshing to have her say once - just ONCE - that mistakes were made on her watch.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Oct 28, 09 7:58 PM
Responsibility is a not concept that Kabot is familiar with.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 29, 09 10:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 29, 09 12:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
I've watched Linda during town hall work sessions and she has an extraordinary grasp of the facts and figures. The mess was created before her watch as supervisor. She's grappling with it by choice as she battled Heaney about his running of the town before actually stepping up to challenge him in a party primary. That took guts.

What is amazing to me is that neither Steve Kenny nor Denis Suskind who served with her back then, and who both have economic backgrounds noticed anything - or, ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 29, 09 12:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
well said goldenrod & full of true facts it takes guts to make hard choices even when those decisions are unpopular.
Someone had to stand up for the voters.
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 29, 09 8:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
Aahh, golfbuddy is back! You are either Linda's husband, bartender, or an obsessed stalker. But don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to get reacquainted after she loses.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Oct 29, 09 9:34 AM
Wow- b/c we support someone means we MUST be related to them. Ludacris statements when they are made. Perhaps we are motivated by politics, leadership qualities, and the desire for a better Township just like you are fcmcmann??? If you are voting for Holst does that mean you are related? or her bartender? or a stalker? Do you see how ridiculous that sounds???
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Oct 29, 09 9:39 AM
Have to agree with fcmann, Given your unflagging support for a failed supervisor who was caught dwi and refuses to take any responsibility for the towns fiscal collapse, it sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 29, 09 10:30 AM
My posting was specifically directed to golfbuddy, not his spokesperson.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Oct 29, 09 11:18 AM
If I were the person or persons responsible for the financial finagling in Town Hall reading the comments above would be cause for jubilation. Both parties agree that none of the finaglers should be pursued legally, then they fall to attacking each other and making empty promises. Then the public continues the infighting.
All of this is impotent. Town Hall needs to be hosed down with a disinfectant. Short of that, these elected idiots need to know they will be scrutinized, prosecuted and ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Oct 29, 09 10:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
Chris Nuzzi's Sign Dogs are back again, pulling out opposition signs and throwing them in the woods. Even if he didn't start it, Chris Nuzzi can make it stop, and he needs to do that, or we'll all think he's OK with this infantile cheating.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 29, 09 2:58 PM
Right...they trespassed onto my friend's property and stood in the open and PAINTED over a large sign. Why not volunteer some of that painting skill at the Youth Bureau where it can be appreciated by the kids?
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Oct 30, 09 10:17 AM
Regrettably, Sally Pope's Sign Dogs are back again, pulling out opposition signs and throwing them in the woods. Even if she didn't start it, Sally can make it stop, and he needs to do that, or we'll all think she's OK with this infantile cheating.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Oct 30, 09 12:12 PM
Nobody knows the budget better than Linda and Chris. After all, it was Heaney, Kabot and Nuzzi who put in the budget fix to buy votes in the last 2 elections. They knew about it before anyone, so they should certainly know how to fix it up. The sad truth is that the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. Southampton Town is in nearly as big a mess as East Hampton Town...so if you think that East Hampton votes are going to give McGintey's crew a second chance, you're wrong. They're running them ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Oct 29, 09 3:13 PM
Who else was on the town board with the 3 above??
Think about if, we had democrats on the our town board.
Do you remember???
During most of those Heaney years the democrats had the majority.

Did you forget about Suskind, Kenny and Zenk?
Who put the fix in Dodger, it could not have been those democrats on the town board.
Who in East Hampton is getting run out of town? O no, it could not be a democrat.
The problem is you just ignore the true facts of who ...more
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Oct 29, 09 9:03 PM
The budget deficit is the result of years and years of STPD perks. There are $3.6M worth of old cops on the payroll who should have retired years ago when they completed twenty years on the force, AS THEY AGREED TO CONTRACTUALLY.

It doesn't take many years before $3.6M/yr. adds up to real money. Hence, the deficit.

Anna Throne-Holst's major contributor is the STPB PBA. If elected, she will continue the cops' sweet ride. $3.6M next year . . and the next year. . .etc, probably ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 31, 09 6:45 PM
I'm sorry, but keeping experienced police on the force after 20 years is a good policy. The contract says they can retire-not that they must retire. Some of our best police officers have been on the job over 20 years. Its money well spent.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 1, 09 11:09 AM
The law states its at the option of the town board to retire police officers after 20 years. It not up to the police offices to go if they choose. When they were hired this is what they signed on to do.
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Nov 1, 09 10:08 PM