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Feb 3, 2010 11:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Comptroller Wright reappointed

Feb 3, 2010 11:14 AM

Tamara Wright will continue serving as Southampton Town’s comptroller through at least December 2011, the Town Board unanimously decided Friday morning.

Ms. Wright was reappointed to a nearly two-year term with a salary of $115,000 per year. She was first appointed in the summer of 2009, having served as a financial consultant for the town.

Earlier in January, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst attempted to reappoint Ms. Wright and had the support of Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, but the measure was blocked by Councilmen Jim Malone and Chris Nuzzi. Mr. Malone and Mr. Nuzzi said they wanted to see the results of ongoing audits before reappointing Ms. Wright.

When reached Friday, Mr. Nuzzi said that he recently saw the final drafts of the capital fund forensic audit completed by FTI Consulting, which helped him place his support behind Ms. Wright. After numerous financial discrepancies were unearthed by the town, board members hired FTI Consulting in Manhattan to complete a forensic audit of the capital fund dating back to 2003.

FTI Consulting’s audit is one of several the town’s books have been subject to. The state comptroller is completing an audit and the town’s external auditor Nawrocki Smith is also gearing up to scrutinize its 2009 books, Ms. Wright said.

FTI’s forensic audit results were one of the key factors in how Mr. Nuzzi made his decision to reappoint Ms. Wright, he said. “It was one of the things several weeks ago I indicated I would like to see,” he added.

In a work session immediately after her appointment, Ms. Wright announced that the capital budget deficit now totals $5 million, and that there is no money unaccounted for. When news of the capital budget financial crisis broke last year, estimates on the size of the capital budget deficit totalled $19 million.

During the work session, Ms. Wright thanked the Town Board for reappointing her. Later, she said she is “honored to have the full Town Board support and very happy to continue to serve the Town of Southampton.”

She wrote that her short-term goals are to issue the 2009 audit by late spring of 2010, and to “strengthen internal controls and financial systems, and improve financial reporting.” Her long-term goals are to work on the 2011 budgeting process.

Mr. Nuzzi added that he now realizes it is important to keep a comptroller permanently managing the day-to-day finances of the town, especially for bond-rating agencies. Ms. Throne-Holst noted last week that the bond rating agencies will be coming to evaluate Southampton Town’s books this week or next.

The town’s current rating is AAA with Standard & Poors and Aa1 with Moody’s, according to the comptroller, but the town has been on a credit watch with both agencies since 2009, and has kept both informed of its financial health, she said.

In addition to getting a rundown of the town’s fiscal health, Mr. Nuzzi also felt it was important to acquiesce to Ms. Throne-Holst’s choice of comptroller. “I’m offering deference to the supervisor,” he said.

Mr. Malone echoed Mr. Nuzzi’s sentiment on deference. “The supervisor is going to work with the comptroller on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “Tamara is the chief financial manager, and the level of comfort the supervisor has with the comptroller is important.”

The financial state of the town, and the ongoing audits, also factored into Mr. Malone’s decision to reappoint Ms. Wright. “From the onset, I wanted some answers to capital budget and funding questions,” he said. “I’m very happy to see now that there is no money missing, and that the numbers have shrunk measurably.”

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Maybe Malone & Nuzzi will now let the public see the results of the ongoing audits, since they seem to approve enough to reappoint the comptroller .. it must be all good.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Jan 29, 10 4:19 PM
Congratulations Tamara and keep up the good work,
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Jan 29, 10 4:58 PM
rational minds prevailed
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Jan 29, 10 8:05 PM
Is she relation to Michael Wright?
By RemembertheDucks (54), Eastport on Jan 29, 10 11:16 PM
Harry and David wanted to use their new sleds outside, but they needed to wait until it snowed. The next week they used their sleds; it was not immediately clear why they changed their positions.
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Jan 30, 10 8:46 AM
Another republican victory-long year ahead for ATH
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jan 31, 10 9:32 AM
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jan 31, 10 11:16 AM
"It was not immediately clear why Mr. Malone and Mr. Nuzzi changed their positions." Well, it's abundantly clear to me. Mr. Malone and Mr. Nuzzi, seeing that they did not have the support of Ms. Graboski to block the excellent Ms. Wright's reappointment, at first abstained on that resolution in an effort to run out the clock, hoping that the March 9 special election would yield yet another Republican/Conservative on the Town Board to join them in obscuring the Town's sorry financial history from ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 1, 10 2:23 PM
Another good example of the new administration working together, after experiencing growing pains at the outset.

To the Town Board -- you work for US.

WE ARE WATCHING for inefficiencies and non-cooperation, trust me.

Please move beyond partisanship to effect solutions in the best interests of the Town.

Thank you for your willingness to serve on the Town Board.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 10 3:09 PM
Or Turkey Bridge, it could simply have been that Mr. Malone and Mr. Nuzzi had questions they wanted answered and were not ready to move forward at that moment. And depsite knowing that, the Supervsor decided confrontation would make good political theater and create a decent campagin narrative for the campaing of her political ally, Ms. Flemming.
By DJII13 (155), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 10 3:30 PM
DJII13, if you, or Mr. Malone, or Mr. Nuzzi, can state to us any reasonable question that existed respecting Ms. Wright's reappointment at the time they abstained, I'll be very surprised. The reason it would surprise me is that Ms. Wright has so far delivered an arguably flawless performance as Comptroller, and it's difficult to imagine any valid reservation that anyone could have about keeping her on. On the other hand, from a purely political viewpoint, Messrs. Nuzzi and Malone would naturally ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 1, 10 4:49 PM
How does ATH know Ms. Wright. Did they become friends before or after Ms. Wright donated $1,000 to ATH campaign in 2007. Talk about cronyism.
Feb 1, 10 6:18 PM appended by reg rep
Correction Ms. Wright donated $1,200 to ATH 6/18/07, check out the NYS Board of Elections web site, 2007 July filings.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 1, 10 6:18 PM
Where were the two strong republican males on our board on that one. How in God's name did that get passed the financial wizard Malone? It is easy to see why the suit Nuzzi could miss it while working on some other more important deal.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Feb 1, 10 10:55 PM
Any democrats care to comment on the $1,200 donation to ATH. Not bad for a job that pays $115,000.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 3, 10 7:04 PM
2 members liked this comment
Not commenting as a Democrat, but you sort of answered your own question, didn't you? By any standard, a single donation of $1200 hardly seems enough to secure a job paying $115,000 every year.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 5, 10 4:43 PM
I would be absolutely astounded if S&P and Moody's don't downgrade the bond rating of Southampton to BBB and Baa1. That's just above junk. What's the plan to fund out the $5mm capital deficit? How high are projected tax rates? With the real estate market in the doldrums, foreclosures and falling values will be a huge problem, I lived throught the 1987-1992 slump and the Press made a ton on forclosure notices.
By sansouci (9), Southampton on Feb 8, 10 4:37 PM
To sansouci:

That much of a downgrade? What is the bond rating for the Town of Southampton at the present?

I suppose that it is possible but it wouldn't necessarily be bad for the Town. Initially, perhaps, but the shock might actually make the Town Council institute reforms in areas that have been heretofore sacrosanct.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 9, 10 2:47 AM
The Town will raise money the old fashioned way- tax the people without them knowing it. Create laws that they can enforce when they want such as Dark Skies and "made up" Sign Ordinances. Make the permit process so costly that only major corporations can afford to develop in the Town and bang them on taxes. Take away services and charge more for beach permits, garbage fees, etc.... They truly do not know what they are doing, they are trying to fix the engine while the boat is sinking costing the ...more
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 9, 10 7:42 AM