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Mar 14, 2012 11:25 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Board Still Undecided on Comptroller Appointment

Mar 14, 2012 11:42 AM

More than a week after a special meeting was scheduled to appoint a new Southampton Town comptroller, the position remains vacant, and the Town Board is still divided along political lines about whom to appoint to the town’s top financial spot.

It was unclear this week when a decision would be made.

Board members interviewed six potential candidates, narrowing it to two—C. Omarr Evans, the top choice of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, and John Morris, the pick of the board’s Republican-Conservative majority, Conservative Party member Jim Malone and Republicans Chris Nuzzi and Christine Scalera. Both were interviewed publicly by the board on Friday. It was a second interview for both—Mr. Morris had to be called back following a closed-door executive session interview on March 2, during which the supervisor was not present, while Mr. Evans was interviewed publicly earlier this month.

After the interviews on Friday, when both top contenders sat for similar lines of questioning, Ms. Throne-Holst said, “To me, there was a very clear distinction between the two candidates,” she said. “But what is going to happen next, I still don’t know at this point.”

The board is searching for a replacement for former Comptroller Tamara Wright, who resigned to take a position with Brookhaven Town; she began her new position as Brookhaven commissioner of finance on Thursday, March 1. On Tuesday, the board accepted the resignation of Deputy Town Comptroller Kathy Scott, who is leaving to spend more time with her family. Ms. Scott’s last day was expected to be Thursday. There has been no word about who will replace her.

Despite some question as to why Mr. Morris was interviewed only in executive session last week, Ms. Scalera said it had always been her intent to invite Mr. Morris back for an interview in public.

After the two candidates answered questions about their experience, Ms. Scalera said there was no news yet to report on a possible appointment. “But, hopefully, soon,” she said. “I think it’s fair to say we all want this resolved as soon as possible but are tempered in our haste, knowing how important an appointment is.”

Mr. Evans is currently employed as the deputy commissioner of administration at the Broome County Department of Social Services in Binghamton. Mr. Morris is a former Smithtown Town comptroller who was not reappointed at the end of his two-year term this year.

During the interviews, Mr. Morris described himself as a “seasoned accountant,” with experience in municipal finance, who said he brings a diverse background to the seat. Ms. Throne-Holst noted that he had held a series of jobs in a short number of years. Ms. Fleming questioned him about the size of the budgets he has handled and his exact dates of service—asking why he was uncertain of the dates when he hesitated to answer and asked to refer to his notes.

The supervisor then said there were serious discrepancies at one of the companies he’d worked for. Mr. Morris explained that those occurred after he’d left the post.

Mr. Evans discussed his belief that communication is key and that he would bring himself up to speed with town policies and procedures if he were hired. At a previous interview, Mr. Nuzzi asked him if he was familiar with bond ratings agencies and Mr. Evans said that although he was not, he would familiarize himself.

After the interviews, Ms. Scalera asked if a resolution to appoint one of the two should be drafted for Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. Ms. Throne-Holst said she’d like to continue the discussion with the other board members before reaching a decision. No action was taken on Tuesday.

Ms. Fleming said that after having worked with Ms. Wright, whom she believes brought “an extraordinary amount of skill and commitment to the position,” including accomplishments such as bringing the town out of deficit and restoring its credit rating, she feels candidates need to be carefully vetted. “As a former fraud prosecutor, I am concerned that whoever takes her place needs to have a very high level of skill, and so I’m obligated to ask tough questions and get to the bottom of the skills and experience that any candidate brings,” she said.

In late 2010, the GOP-Conservative majority of the Town Board drew criticism after they appointed Russell Kratoville, a former GOP committee member in Riverhead, to the position of town general services administrator, a post formerly held by Richard Blowes. The resolution to appoint Mr. Kratoville was sponsored by Mr. Nuzzi, a Republican, and approved by Mr. Malone, a Conservative Party member, and former Republican Councilwoman Nancy Graboski. Both Ms. Fleming and Ms. Throne-Holst said they were not given adequate time to interview Mr. Kratoville before the matter was voted upon.

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Ms. Fleming, do you honestly believe the comptroller "brought us out of deficit and restored our credit rating"??? What exactly do you think the scope of the comptrollers work is? I realize you are a big shot from NYC, but us country rubes from Southampton recognize comptroller is a bookkeeping position, nothing more.
By Wagoneer (28), Southampton on Mar 14, 12 2:07 PM
You're technically right, Wagoneer, to point out that a comptroller is not a policy-making postion, but an administrative, ministerial function. What's really sad is that Bridget Fleming is also right in saying that this comptroller had such a great beneficial effect.

How can that be? Because the problems with Southampton's finances were not so much policy failings as just simple carelessness with the books, a failure to apply ordinary accounting rules. When Comptroller Wright did ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 15, 12 3:04 AM
There you go again George. Errors of omission and misplaced facts permeate your comments. Did you forget that the accounting errors took place during the administration of one Republican Supervisor, who had a Democratic Board majority during at least a portion of his tenure. Ms. Wright was brought in after another Republican Supervisor, Linda Kabot, unearthed the problems.

But just as your erroneous comments on another string here stated as a fact that Ms. Wright did not receive compensation ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 15, 12 12:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
What utter nonsense you do utter, NT. So there was a Dem Board majority during "a portion" of one Republican Supervisor's tenure -- so what does that make? A Dem majority for about 5% of the period in which the deficits arose? A Dem majority for less than 1% of all the generations of Republican control I mentioned? And yet you lay the blame on them. Talk about stretch!

And then you give all sides credit for fixing things. Unbelievable, considering that you were there complaining with ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 16, 12 7:12 AM
George, either you missed my point or chose to ignore it. You neglected to mention that the period of long time one party rule had been broken in recent years. You neglected to mention that there was a Democratic Board majority during the period when the bookkeeping in Town went haywire. Relevant facts. And, George, I didn't blame them, I simply stated that they shared in the blame by their inaction with regard to monitoring the Supervisor's budget process. The stretch comes under your scenario ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 16, 12 11:36 AM
Lighten up, NT. Don't lose your sense of humor along with everything else.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 16, 12 1:34 PM
George the only thing I've lost is faith in the leadership of the Town Democratic Committee as exemplified by last years campaign tactics and your comments here.

I would have expected a "good Democratic" response to point that there had been Democratic Board majorities.

Something positive that carved out to specific examples of how government was different and better with three Democrats on the Town Board, not a continuation of your negative derogatory opinion cited as fact. Now ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 16, 12 9:34 PM