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Jan 20, 2012 5:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Comptroller Is Still Considering Options

Jan 25, 2012 10:40 AM

Southampton Town Comptroller Tamara Wright was expected to be appointed Brookhaven Town finance commissioner last week by the Brookhaven Town Board, but there was something from Ms. Wright’s past that gave some board members pause: a $651,316 Internal Revenue Service tax lien filed against her in 2009.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico said he and other board members on the seven-member board expressed concern over the lien after interviewing Ms. Wright for the first time last Wednesday. Ultimately, the board’s concerns compelled Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko to hold off on plans to introduce a resolution at a meeting on Thursday, January 19, to appoint Ms. Wright, according to Mr. Panico.

While Ms. Wright explained to Brookhaven Town officials that the lien was filed against her in error—a claim she made to Southampton Town officials when it first surfaced in 2010—it still made the councilman and other board members feel “uneasy,” he said.

“While I understand her argument, and I understand and appreciate what she had to say regarding why she has this federal tax lien, the bottom line is that it’s still filed against her,” Mr. Panico said.

On Wednesday, Ms. Wright said she received documentation from the IRS in the mail that morning indicating the “formal release” of her lien. She did not immediately provide a copy. “When I was made aware of this in January—that it was still on the Suffolk County site, that evidently it had not been formally released—I went to my attorney and said, ‘You gotta get this done.’” she said. “So it came through today.”

The lien, which first came to light in 2010, is based on two years—2002 and 2003—during which Ms. Wright was employed as a chief operating officer in the financial industry in the United Kingdom.

“She had told us she was working overseas in England, and she was expatriated, and she had some documentation, but the fact of the matter is that it’s still on record and still filed against her,” Mr. Panico said. “And the problem that I as a board member and other board members face is that we run, and we’re charged with running, a $260 million town the size of Nassau County. Bigger than Nassau County.”

Mr. Panico added that it could be potentially embarrassing for Brookhaven Town if IRS officials attempted to garnishee Ms. Wright’s wages.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said on Tuesday that she was “not at all” concerned about the lien, because Ms. Wright showed board members documentation from the IRS in 2010 demonstrating that she doesn’t owe the money. In fact, the IRS owes Ms. Wright a refund, she said.

“She has shown us documentation that has obviously put everyone here to rest about it,” the supervisor said.

Last week’s interview with Brookhaven Town officials occurred a short time after the Southampton Town Board’s Republican-Conservative majority hesitated in reappointing both Ms. Wright and Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato to new two-year terms. At the time, Councilman Jim Malone had asked the board to hold off until newly elected Councilwoman Christine Scalera had the opportunity to interview Ms. Wright and Ms. Scarlato. The board unanimously reappointed both on January 10.

Currently, Ms. Wright, an East Hampton resident, earns an annual salary of $117,300. If tapped for the Brookhaven Town job, she would earn $133,000 per year.

Last week, Ms. Wright had indicated that she was the “top candidate” for the job. Mr. Panico said that while Ms. Wright told them that Mr. Lesko had offered her the job, the two-year appointment is subject to approval by the board.

Late last week, Ms. Wright said she hadn’t come to a decision on whether she would take the job.

“No decision has been made,” Ms. Wright told reporters in her Southampton Town office on Friday afternoon. “I’m in conversations. I’ve only just met the board. I’m very, very happy in Southampton. I’m committed to this town. But it’s an extraordinary opportunity there.”

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So the ball is in Ms. Wright's court? Does this mean she has been offered the job in Brookhaven? She claims she is the top candidate so I guess that means they offered her the job after the interviews on Wednesday. I would assume if she went to the interviews on Wednesday, and then showed up for the Town Board meeting on Thursday night, as I have heard, then why wasn't she appointed at the Thursday night meeting? Has something else come up? Is Ms. Wright contemplating accepting an offer or ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Jan 20, 12 10:40 PM
Tell your buddies she's evaluating a counteroffer. That's what Southampton knows, that she is worth more than what Brookhaven is offering. The money is there, the costs of losing her being greater.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 21, 12 8:24 AM
Hmmm Wonder if the $700K tax lien came up..?
By EsmerB (1), Sag Harbor on Jan 22, 12 8:58 AM
I heard the $650K IRS tax lien did come up. Does Brookhaven want to hire a financial director with a potential federal tax liability of $650K under dispute? One thing I can't figure is that I thought ATH claimed Ms. Wright's problem with the IRS had been resolved. Has it or has it not?
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Jan 23, 12 9:37 PM
looks like she's going to Brookhaven.
She did a good job - hired in 2008
Gee I think Linda was Supervisor then
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Feb 2, 12 10:14 PM