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Apr 4, 2008 3:20 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

State to conduct CPF audit

Apr 4, 2008 3:20 PM

The New York Comptroller's Office will be conducting an audit of the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund later this year, following a request from State Assemblyman Fred Thiele in early March.

The review will cover the towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southold, and Southampton, and will likely commence this spring, according to the comptroller's office.

Mr. Thiele, one of the legislators behind the creation of the CPF—a 2-percent tax on most real estate transactions—called for the audit because of the enormous amount of revenue it has resulted in over its 10-year history.

Created in 1998, the fund has generated more than $514 million and has preserved more than 10,000 acres of farmland, open space and historic sites within the five East End towns. "With that type of money after that length of time, I thought an audit would be a good idea," Mr. Thiele said this week.

The assemblyman's request gained even more traction following controversy over $8 million of preservation funds tapped by East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee for uses other than land preservation late last month. Mr. McGintee's actions will be of particular focus in the audit, according to Mr. Thiele. The primary purpose of the fund is to purchase land and development rights of land for preservation, and Mr. McGintee's actions may not have complied with the CPF statue.

Mr. McGintee defended the move as simple cash flow management and said that all the money borrowed from the fund has been paid back.

The state comptroller's office said they could not comment on the actions of Mr. McGintee until the audit is complete.

Staffers within the comptroller's office will conduct the audit using funds already in the state budget, according to Bill Reynolds, Deputy Press Secretary for the comptroller's office. He noted that the audit may be completed by this fall.

Mr. Thiele said he had no problem with the review of the preservation fund being performed in-house. "I have total confidence in the comptroller's office," Mr. Thiele said.

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