The mood on the streets of East Hampton last Thursday afternoon matched the mute gray sky and cool, misty air, as people solemnly shook their heads over the morning arrest of the East Hampton Town’s former budget officer, Ted Hults, on seven felony charges stemming from misconduct with the town’s finances.
“It’s the topic of the day in East Hampton,” said Mark Ryan, of Springs, while standing on Main Street in the village, where he was discussing the arrest with a friend.
“We feel sorry for both him and McGintee,” Mr. Ryan said. “Two careers were ruined. The consensus of most residents is that it’s a sad day for East Hampton and for their families.”
But, he added, “no one who is arrested is guilty. We know everyone involved and the prosecutor is a very fair man,” he said, referring to the Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
“It makes you angry,” said Village Administrator Larry Cantwell, down the street at Village Hall. “This is a sad day for the community.”
“I’m not remembering anything that comes close to this sort of mess,” Mr. Cantwell said. “The town has been pretty scandal-free in that regard.”
He mentioned that the village is a partner with the town in the Community Preservation Fund, from which Mr. Hults illegally transferred $8 million in 2007 to cover budget shortfalls.
“It’s really tragic that one of the programs the East End is most known for, the preservation of open space, gets touched by this scandal and misuse of the funds,” Mr. Cantwell said.
At Village Hardware, owner Bernard Kiembock, who is also a member of the Town’s Budget Advisory Committee, which was formed this winter in response to the mushrooming deficit, said he was sad to see that it had reached this point.
“I feel bad for them that they probably did not use the right judgment,” Mr. Kiembock said. On the committee, “we’ve been trying to help them come up with some ideas as to where the cuts can be to bring the budget where it needs to be, but we have no idea what really transpired.”
Across the street, at Rowdy Hall, Lisa Bonner, the general manager, anticipated that people would be buzzing about the arrest at happy hour.
“The fact that there is such a lack of information and town records is a reminder that people need to wake up,” Ms. Bonner said. “No one knows where the money is and that in and of itself is an embarrassment.”
She questioned the motives behind Mr. Hults’s actions and whether he, in fact, thought he was doing a good thing for East Hampton.
“If you’re not knowledgeable about what you’re doing, you’re going to get yourself in trouble,” she said. “Was it malice or just ignorance?”