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Feb 23, 2010 6:56 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Thiele plans further oversight on CPF stewardship expenses

Feb 23, 2010 6:56 PM

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is in the process of creating a working group of East End leaders to come up with a uniform policy on the use of Community Preservation Fund money for stewardship.

Mr. Thiele, who drafted the state law creating the CPF, which was adopted in 1998, has been at the fore of lawmakers calling for tighter controls on the fund after East Hampton Town was discovered to have misappropriated $8 million from the CPF, which is intended to preserve open space, to cover 
operating budget deficits beginning in 2006.

“In 2007, I called for an audit of the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund by the New York State comptroller. As a result, extensive malfeasance was discovered by the state comptroller in the Town of East Hampton. Specifically, the town had raided the CPF to hide a general fund deficit,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release issued Monday. “It also was discovered that the Town of East Hampton had trumped up undocumented stewardship expenses to divert money from the CPF to illegally reduce its budget gap. Thankfully, that sordid chapter of East Hampton’s history has come to a close. The integrity of the CPF has been maintained. State legislation was passed to increase transparency and provide clarity as to what constitutes legitimate CPF expenditures.”

As of the fall of 2009, East Hampton was still working to document $1.5 million in chargebacks to the CPF from its general fund for management and stewardship expenses between 2004 and 2008, in response to an inquiry from the state comptroller’s office.

Mr. Thiele plans to appoint 10 to 15 town and village officials, including the towns’ CPF managers and attorneys, as well as local environmental advocates, to a group that will create the policy guidelines.

“Our goal will be to prepare a draft policy manual by July 1 of this year,” said Mr. Thiele. “That draft will then be referred to the five Town Boards in the Peconic Bay Region for discussion, debate, and ultimate adoption before the adoption of the 2011 town budgets this fall.”

The group, which will hold all of its meetings in public, will also be expected to draft an inter-municipal agreement between the five East End towns to create a Peconic Bay Region CPF Opinions Bureau, whose opinions must be taken into account by all five towns.

“We need to ensure uniform and consistent interpretation of the CPF laws and policies with the highest degree of transparency and oversight,” said Mr. Thiele. “This opinions bureau has been authorized by state law and should be implemented now.”

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