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Mar 23, 2012 3:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Unanimously Appoints New Comptroller

Mar 27, 2012 4:19 PM

After nearly two months of wrangling, the Southampton Town Board on Friday unanimously appointed a new comptroller following a quick public interview.

Northport resident Leonard J. Marchese, currently the director of management and research for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and a former Huntington Town director of finance, will be paid an annual salary of $117,300.

He was sworn in immediately after his appointment and will begin his new job on Monday. “I’m looking forward to working here,” he said after being sworn in. “Hopefully, I’ll be here a long time.”

Mr. Marchese will fill the role left vacant by former Comptroller Tamara Wright, who resigned in early February to take a position as Brookhaven Town commissioner of finance, which she began on March 1. Ms. Wright resigned shortly after the majority of the Town Board hesitated in reappointing her in January. She was eventually reappointed on January 10.

Following a lengthy job search in which six candidates were interviewed earlier this month, some publicly and some privately, the board remained split along political and philosophical lines and was unable to reach a consensus on a new hire.

While Republican Councilman Chris Nuzzi on Friday said the split on the board wasn’t political in nature, and was simply a desire on the part of board members to find the best possible candidate, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member, had a different take.

“It did fall along political lines,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. She added that her “criteria was different on the level of experience we needed.”

Mr. Nuzzi, however, said it was just a matter of finding the right person.

“Despite some perceived contention,” he said, “I hope this proves that the board members did their due diligence to pick the best candidate. One of the most important things was finding someone with municipal finance experience.”

“He can hit the ground running,” the councilman said of Mr. Marchese.

The town’s new comptroller holds both an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John’s University in New York City. He worked for several years as a private accountant before joining the Town of Huntington in 1986, where he worked until 1996, when he was hired by the county. He worked for the county for several years in different capacities, before becoming director of management and research in 1998.

According to Ms. Throne-Holst, he fell out of favor with some county officials because of his stance on the controversial John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, which the county has considered selling to help bridge its budget gap. Mr. Marchese was working for the county as a consultant, so there was no problem with him starting work with Southampton right away.

The supervisor said she was encouraged that he took a stance. “I want someone who stands their ground and doesn’t let politics influence a sound financial analysis,” she said. “That’s the kind of comptroller I’m looking for.”

The search for a new comptroller was extended last week when it became clear that the board couldn’t agree on an appointment, having been split over two other candidates. Mr. Marchese heard about the position and sent his resume in last Thursday, March 15. He was interviewed by the board in executive session the following day, Ms. Throne-Holst said, and was well-received by the board. “We were all impressed by him,” she said. “There’s no doubt that his rather lengthy and relevant experience is hard to come by.”

Mr. Marchese said he was anxious to get started in his new position and would focus on updating the town’s outmoded accounting software, noting that different departments were currently using separate software programs. “I find it odd that a town of this magnitude has different systems implemented throughout the town,” he said, noting that he would either integrate all the departments into one of the current systems or bring in a new system.

Ms. Throne-Holst added that what’s being used wasn’t even a municipal financial system. “It’s a mess,” she said.

Mr. Marchese also said he would like to review the town’s 2010 corrective action plan—a list of measures the town has taken or plans to take to rectify poor accounting practices from 2003 to 2006—to make sure the town was still on track and that he would ask for more staffing. “We might have some disagreements regarding staffing issues,” he told board members, in order for “there to be checks and balances.”

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Of course there'll be "disagreements regarding staffing issues." Remember, three important positions were looted from the Comptroller's Department to provide bodies in the made-up Business Management Department, so that Republican stalwart and OTB refugee Russell Kratoville would have somebody working for him to justify his own $150K compensation package. This was just part of the pattern of abuse that finally drove Tamara Wright, the first competent Comptroller we'd had in years, out of the job. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 25, 12 1:23 PM
Probably hired Kratoville so he would have enough tenure under the NYS Retirement System. That's what they do to assure that they collect a handsome retirement package. It happens all the time, they create jobs to protect those who have political connections.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 27, 12 10:08 AM
Turkey,

Not for nothin' but how long are you going to harp on this Kratoville thing? Yea it was stupid that the Board did it. Yea we don't really know what the guy does. Yea it's a waste of money, but it's said and done whining abou it every chance you get makes you sound like High Hat Sizes's little brother.

The Town didn't abuse anything which lead to Tamara leaving. She wanted a new challenge, she got a pay raise and works less hours. She personally was quoted as saying ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 26, 12 12:38 PM
OK Nature, you're saying it's history about the Kratoville appointment, so I should let go of it, but you're wrong because this travesty keeps having consequences that affect us in new ways in the present. Now we have a new Comptroller who is three staffers short because they were moved to give Mr. Kratoville a "Department" to run. That's not "moaning and groaning" about the past; that's identifying a present problem caused by naked political patronage.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 28, 12 3:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Once again there you go George expressing your opinion as if it were gospel fact. There are actually 2 more positions in the Comptroller's office this year than existed on December 31, 2011(albeit it is my understanding that the office did lose at least one auditing position, which is regretable).

Yes there was a reorganization and Mr. Kratoville now has responsibility over 7 rather 3 or 4 divisions. He always had a department to run. That department was run by Richard Blowes for years ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 28, 12 7:23 PM
Credibility, huh? So now NT says the Kratoville fiasco was "part of a comprehensice bi-partisan budget process to achieve necessary cost savings." Wow! I guess that wasn't you up there in front of the Town Board with the rest of us on November 30, 2010, loudly condemning the dictatorial process by which Russell Kratoville became our Management Services Administrator at $150K a year.

And I guess too, you'd deny that Kratoville was a loyal Republican soldier for all his adult life, that ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 29, 12 5:15 PM
Mr. George Lynch, you wish to talk about credibility. Well, Turkey George, my comment as is clearly visible above, regarding a comprehensive bi-partisan budget process obviously referred to the changes made this January.

In November 2010 I stood before the Town Board to extol Mr. Kratoville's credentials and to implore the Republican/Conservative majority to make his appointment in a proper manner.

I would expect a Republican/Conservative majority to appoint a loyal Republican ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 29, 12 10:27 PM
Such negativity......Give the man a chance!
By rita33 (11), East Quogue on Mar 29, 12 10:00 AM
Turkey sandwhich - those limitations didn't seem to hurt Ms. Wright did it?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 29, 12 4:12 PM
Would those of you who purport to be "in the know" please let us know how many "white collar" workers are employed by the town now as opposed to five, ten, and fifteen years ago before computers were widely used to assist them in doing their jobs?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 29, 12 11:48 PM
One would almost think that the new Comptroller who thinks "the people who are here" who "know the reasons for what they are doing" is referring to the TOWN BOARD ... good luck to him!
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Mar 30, 12 1:15 AM
Glad we were able to pay him 139,000 and give him a car on top of that. But it's great he only works 900-400 sharp, we pay him to drive to the office also. So he must be great imagine a 25 thousand dollar increase after 6 months on the job.
By SHtaxwatch (4), Southampton on Dec 14, 12 9:01 AM