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Jan 13, 2010 12:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town comptroller reappointment thwarted

Jan 13, 2010 12:25 PM

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was thwarted by two of her fellow Town Board members on Tuesday when they refused to support the reappointment of Comptroller Tamara Wright, who has been helping steer the town’s financial ship through troubled waters on a full-time basis for the last seven months.

Republican Councilmen Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone both abstained on the vote to reappoint Ms. Wright at the board’s meeting Tuesday, reasoning that they needed more information from ongoing town financial audits before they could make a decision they’d be comfortable with. Their refusal to cast votes effectively killed the proposal put forth by Ms. Throne-Holst; Councilwoman Nancy Graboski voted in favor of the appointment, but her support wasn’t enough to garner majority support on the four-member board.

“It’s called hedging,” Ms. Throne-Holst said about Mr. Nuzzi’s and Mr. Malone’s decision to forgo a vote altogether.

Ms. Graboski, who rounds out the Republican majority, spoke up in favor of Ms. Wright, calling her articulate and intelligent and said that, with the number of ongoing financial audits the town is going through, and the impending resolution of last year’s financial crisis, it would be foolish to “change horses midstream.”

Ms. Wright has been credited with implementing new computer systems and recruiting professional comptroller’s office staff members in her tenure so far. If reappointed, she would serve a two-year term concurrent with Ms. Throne-Holst’s, which expires on December 31, 2011. She would earn a salary of $115,000 per year, the same as she makes now.

“It would be more prudent to wait for the audit,” Mr. Malone said, referring to the audit of the capital fund.

Both he and Mr. Nuzzi said they want more information on the capital fund audit, and the 2009 audit soon to be underway, before deciding whether or not to keep Ms. Wright on board.

Ms. Throne-Holst said after the meeting that the capital fund audit, completed by FTI Consulting in Manhattan, is already complete. Ms. Wright clarified, stating that the final report for the capital fund audit will be released within two weeks, and the draft and presentation were already made public.

Mr. Nuzzi said that he anticipates that he will be able to make a decision about Ms. Wright’s employment within the next few weeks. He noted that he does not have anyone else in mind for her position and will not be conducting interviews during the next few weeks.

Until Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Malone come to a decision, Ms. Throne-Holst, who championed Ms. Wright when she was initially hired full-time, will be bringing a resolution calling for Ms. Wright’s reappointment to each public meeting.

“I want to be very clear how strongly I support them,” Ms. Throne-Holst said about the comptroller’s office and her decision to bring the resolution forward at each meeting.

Ms. Wright said that she would like to be reappointed. “I would love to continue working with the town,” she said.

In 2008, Ms. Wright was hired by the town as a financial consultant. Last summer, she was hired to replace Steve Brautigam as comptroller for the remainder of former Supervisor Linda Kabot’s term.

Ms. Throne-Holst expressed her concern that the town’s bond rating, which determines what interest rate the municipality secures on loans, could suffer if Ms. Wright is not reappointed. She noted that the town has had four comptrollers in two years, a fact that does not bode well with bond rating agencies.

Ms. Throne-Holst said that she was concerned that if Ms. Wright is not reappointed, other members of the comptroller’s office staff could leave with her. After the meeting, Mr. Nuzzi dismissed that fear. He said that many of the employees in the comptroller’s office are civil servants and would not easily leave their posts.

Planning Board Appointment

Despite vociferous public outcry, William Berkoski Jr. was appointed to the Town Planning Board by a 3-1 vote at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, even though no public interviews have been held for the post. Ms. Throne-Holst cast the dissenting vote.

Before he was appointed, numerous town residents spoke out against the appointment, arguing that the Town Board should have had a more transparent process for screening and selecting advisory board members.

“Lack of transparency is my major concern,” Arthur Bridenstine told the board. “There’s no need to speed this up. All candidates should be vetted out.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said that she agreed with all of those who spoke. She expressed her frustration with the lack of transparency in Mr. Berkoski’s appointment to the seven-member board. “I am disappointed and embarrassed about this,” she said, adding that the Town Board had not given due consideration to the other resumes submitted for the post.

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So Nuzzi and Malone abstained on continuing with Ms. Wright as Comptroller, eh?

Why? Do they have someone better in mind -- apparently not -- or are they withholding their support for Ms. Wright until they can get some sort of assurances that her actions while not put a big steaming pile of the fiscal mess on their buddy Skip Heaney's doorstep?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 13, 10 2:29 PM
Frank,

I think you're 100% on this one.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Jan 13, 10 2:31 PM
I had occasion to see Ms. Wright at Town Board meetings and examine some of the fiscal documents she and her staff prepared; she is worth every penny - not to re-appoint her would be great mistake and I have to agree with Mr. Wheeler's assessment concerning past supervisor's responsibilty for the fiscal mess the Town is in. Cut out the politics folks - let's get this mess cleaned up.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Jan 13, 10 2:37 PM
How odd. Nuzzi and Malone refrain from appointing the comptroller who is digging through their party's ten years of Town mismanagement but do appoint, against strong opposition, another building trades entrepreneur to the Planning Board.

Parenthetically, when will Jim Malone announce his decision about resigning as deputy county clerk in order to devote his full attention to Town matters. ("That's a joke, Son", as Foghorn Leghorn would have said.)
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 13, 10 2:43 PM
Wait for more information, what information? How about waiting for Ms. Wright to get fed up with Southampton Town politics and take her skills elsewhere? Yeah, that would be good for the town... I mean, how many more comptrollers should we go through? It seems this comptroller is doing a good job and deserves the assurance of the TB that she's going to be given the chance to complete her work. From everything I've read, both in the paper and various comments, it seems she is smart, competent and ...more
By Tim Tanuka (38), Southampton on Jan 13, 10 3:31 PM
The last thing the Republicans want is a smart, competent, and HONEST controller investigating the past 8 years. Malone and Nuzzi will stonewall this appointment and hope another republican gets elected in March.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jan 13, 10 4:07 PM
The week of January 4th the Southampton Town Board announced its decision to forgo an open, transparent, appointment process in favor of appointing an individual named William Berkoski to the planning board. This announcement came one week before the January 11th application deadline! Were interviews conducted? Were all candidates considered? Apparently not, but they choose to abstain on this one even though she is clearly capable and has already been working in the same capacity?
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 13, 10 4:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm in full agreement with all the preceding comments. How often does that happen? What do you think it means when everyone who's commenting says the same thing? What do you think it means when Frank Wheeler and I, who agree on almost nothing, agree on this one?

It means that these guys -- Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone -- are even worse than we expected. It means they are doing everything they can to sabotage not only the Throne-Holst administration, but the very fiscal integrity of Southampton ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 13, 10 5:54 PM
Turkey Bridge is right... and why put Throne-Holst in office only to put 4 Republicans on the Town Board.. they already have a majority as is...at least with Fleming there will still be a GOP majority but more balance.... its the taxpayers and voters that suffer when one party has too much power and sway...
By Tim Tanuka (38), Southampton on Jan 13, 10 6:41 PM
The only reason to abstain from voting is if you are disqualified for some reason. I think that Nuzzi and Malone should tell the voters the reasons each are disqualified.

To say they want to wait does that mean they want a vacancy in this position until after the special election in March. That is eight weeks away, a lot of work could be completed between now and then.

Neither Nuzzi or Malone have said there has been anything wrong with the work done by Ms. Wright.

Chris ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 13, 10 6:53 PM
Publius" "The only reason to abstain from voting is if you are disqualified for some reason."

That not only makes no sense, but shows a profound ignorance of the process of a board.

One abstains from a vote if there is a conflict of interest, actual or perceived, or if one wishes to not make a recorded "YEA" or "NAY" vote, sometimes in order to garner more information to commit to a position on an issue.

Given the present numbers, it appears that the latter is the case. ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 13, 10 8:48 PM
Wheeler, You are true to form - disagreeable.

If you want to wait for more information you move to table it until such time as you reasonably expect such information to be available. If that motion fails, then vote "No" and the record is plain that you wanted more information.

An abstention is often used as a dodge move, but it is plain to all.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 13, 10 8:54 PM
Thank you, Publius -- you may rely on me to always be "disagreeable" when you make pretentious and ill-informed statements such as I called you on.

Yes, an abstention can be a "dodge," but it can be as I said -- and is entirely proper when a conflict of interest exists.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 14, 10 1:09 AM
Thanks Mr. Wheeler, you have once again come around to what i said.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 14, 10 11:23 AM
You are spot on, Publius!
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Jan 14, 10 2:54 PM
This is a shame. The Skipper's boys are digging in their heels already. We have. four years of this duo. Malone did say he does not want to look back, he wants to move ahead. You can learn by your mistakes -- if you know why and how they happened.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Jan 13, 10 7:48 PM
I hope that the people of this town go out and cast a vote to balance the board. I was very impressed with Fleming and am happy that she is running in the special election, I believe that she would be good on the board.
If we put four Republicans on the Southampton Town board, all transparency would go out the window with such a super majority.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 13, 10 7:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bridget Fleming graduated from a Virginia Law School, a highly regarded school, then served as a prosecutor in Morganthau's Office. Unlike Touro Law School which sells degrees by the dozen to anyone willing to pay.

Who are the Republican's putting up for this election, and do we really want another vote to go with Nuzzi and Malone ?
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 13, 10 9:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh great! A NYC prosecutor...Now that will change things. The East End is losing it's identity. Give me a break.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jan 13, 10 11:16 PM
What identity is that ?

She is intelligent and capable. Those are qualities that have been in short supply on this Town Board for years. Just look at the budget mess that came from Skippy the fence man. You want more of that ?

Look at credentials, they matter.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 13, 10 11:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
Look at her community record..If there is one. Let us know what it is. Just being a criminal lawyer are not "credentials." Skippy "the fence man" and company should be investigated by the DA for what went on here and prosecuted just like in EH. Identity means local community knowledge and experience. Bridget, in my opinion, just doesn't cut it at this point in time. If she is elected, I hope she proves me wrong.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jan 13, 10 11:58 PM
Ms. Fleming graduated from a highly regarded law school. It is at least on par with Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Syracuse, and Georgetown. By "highly regarded" I mean the admissions process is very selective and only very talented people are admitted.

Then she worked in a highly regarded District Attorney's Office, an office where many talented people work, as compared to other DA's Offices where patronage considerations eclipse the requirement of talent by a large margin.

There ...more
Jan 14, 10 8:37 AM appended by Publius
So does William Hughes of Hampton Bays fit your description of a worthy candidate ? He is currently an employee of Southampton Town PD, and is the Republican nominee.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 14, 10 8:37 AM
Come on ..you still haven't given me proof of a strong community record. She worked in NY for the NY Ciounty DA in 2001. 2001 -2010 what is her record in Southampton Town???
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jan 14, 10 6:07 PM
Query to "nellie (sag harbor)": Are you the same person who identifies herself as "nellie (charleston)" under the recent piece on the selection of a date for the special election? What's going on here?
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Jan 15, 10 1:28 PM
Are you the same Fidelis who enjoys personal attacking on this blog???? What is going on here??
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jan 15, 10 6:46 PM
You still haven't answered the question.What is Fleming' community service s community record in Southampton Town for 2001-2010??????
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jan 15, 10 6:59 PM
Amazing how the fulcrum of judgment changes position when Republican Party interests are involved.

Two positions calling for a decision to appoint. In one case, a sitting appointee without criticism or challenge; in the other, a prospective appointee against whose appointment a half-dozen residents have spoken.

In the first case, the appointee is tabulating years of Republican mismanagement; in the latter, the appointee is a Republican Party regular.

The result? Nuzzi ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 13, 10 10:46 PM
"The week of January 4th the Southampton Town Board announced its decision to forgo an open, transparent, appointment process in favor of appointing an individual named William Berkoski to the planning board"
We ll know this is a pay back!!!
DISGUSTING!!!
I guest now we have to pay for electing Nuzzi and Malone ;-(
By Bel (86), southampton on Jan 14, 10 8:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
Not to interupt the the enjoyment most of the posters here are geting wrking up their mock outrage, but isn't the practical impact of this vote, maintainig the status quo? Plainly put, Supervisor Throne-Holt's handpicked choice, Ms. Wright, remains as comptroller.
By DJII13 (155), Hampton Bays on Jan 14, 10 8:44 AM
Yes, the "abstain" votes allows the board a chance to see the audits of work done under Ms. Wright and use it as sort of a "report card". Seams like a resonable action to take.
She wasn't fired or anything, just wasn't confirmed until all the information is available to review. .
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 11:01 AM
Instead of weighing campaign statements, analyzing past records and doing
their homework, the electorate gave the money and power to Nuzzi and Malone
creating a political Siamese twin -- a two-headed, self-promoting bloated monster in the Heaney mode. These gentlemen will work over Ms. ATH and leave her
bruised and ineffectual. They have already swung into action. Now we have the pigs and the lipstick.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 10:10 AM
2 members liked this comment
You are correct. It was the "electorate " who placed these folks in office. Now, don't you think you should alow them some time to gets things in order?
I realize two weeks is a lifetime in politics, but I find it hard to fathom that you have passed judgement based on a single vote.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 11:03 AM
First impressions are important.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 14, 10 11:24 AM
The question to ask is -- how effectual is Tamara Wright in executing the duties of her office. For anyone who has paid attention, she is doing superbly. We need someone in office who is building up a history and institutional memory regarding the financial workings of Southampton Town.

When Obama became president, he retained Republican Sec Defense, Gates. Why? Because he's doing a good job and the continuity was needed as we wind down one war and fight the other (and correct) one.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Jan 14, 10 12:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 1:40 PM
I am sure Mr Nuzzi and Mr Malone will support former Supervisor Kabots request to NYS Comptroller to audit the town books for the past 6 years,its nice to know we have a board who will uncover every stone,,I expect Tamara Wright is updating her resuma,,,,I know I would not want to work for a Town that does nor recognise hard dedicated work,,,
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 1:40 PM
1 member liked this comment