East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee stepped down on Monday morning.
Mr. McGintee has been the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office into financial mismanagement at Town Hall.
In a letter dated Monday, October 5, that was filed in the Town Clerk’s office just after 10:30 a.m., Mr. McGintee wrote, “I have devoted my entire professional career to the Town of East Hampton and I believe that resigning now is in the town’s best interest. Ending this matter allows me to provide ongoing assistance to the District Attorney’s office as its investigation continues, and to spend more time with my family.”
The District Attorney’s office has not filed charges against Mr. McGintee.
“There is an active, ongoing, grand jury investigation of the Town of East Hampton. The grand jury will determine the resolution of this investigation. We have no further comment,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota in a statement to reporters Monday afternoon.
That statement marked the first time that the D.A.’s office has acknowledged the existence of a grand jury investigation into the case, despite numerous reports over the past year and a half of subpoenas for town records and interrogations of Town Board members, focusing on the actions of Mr. McGintee and his former budget officer, Ted Hults.
Mr. McGintee’s letter stated that Deputy Supervisor Pete Hammerle will assume the role of supervisor until a new administration takes office in January. Mr. McGintee, who is a Democrat, was not seeking reelection and was slated to finish his third term in December.
“Nothing really changes,” said Mr. Hammerle, who added that he will remain deputy supervisor, but will be running town meetings and performing Mr. McGintee’s duties. “I think everything will be fine for the next three months.”
Mr. Hammerle added that he only just found out Monday morning that he would be taking over for Mr. McGintee.
“I had no idea. I got a call at home from the town clerk this morning to come in for an emergency meeting,” he said. “Bill wanted to stick around and submit his final budget.”
Mr. McGintee submitted his tentative 2010 budget to the Town Clerk’s office on Wednesday, September 30. The New York State Comptroller released the damning results of an audit of the town’s financial practices on Thursday, October 1, which outlined serious and systemic mismanagement in the town’s budget office. The comptroller’s office has provided Mr. Spota’s office with the audit information.
Mr. McGintee was not present at a Town Board meeting on Friday, October 2. His office staff said on Friday that he was not at work because he was dealing with a family emergency and Mr. McGintee’s neighbors reported a large number of cars at his home that morning.
Mr. McGintee’s budget calls for an additional 10-percent hike in town taxes in 2010, after taxpayers shouldered a whopping 24-percent tax increase this year.
“Bill has offered to speak with me any time I have a question about the budget,” said Mr. Hammerle, who added that Town Comptroller Janet Verneuille, who worked closely with Mr. McGintee on the 2010 budget, is well versed in the document’s contents.
Mr. Hammerle said that he would attend a meeting of the town’s department heads Monday afternoon to “let them know this has taken place, as if they didn’t already know.”
Town Board member Julia Prince said that Mr. McGintee also spoke with her Monday morning before he left Town Hall.
“He came and talked to me about the budget. He said he had been planning to leave for a while, but he wanted to finish the budget,” she said. Ms. Prince added that she has worked hard on the budget with Mr. McGintee and is very familiar with the document.
Mr. Hults, the former budget officer, resigned in May and was charged by the district attorney in June with seven felonies, one for defrauding the government for transferring $8 million of the town’s Community Preservation Fund to its operating fund after the town first began having difficulty meeting its payroll in December 2006 and six charges for securities fraud, filing false instruments and falsifying business records for misstatements on two bond prospectuses in the summer of 2007.
Former Town Attorney Laura Molinari resigned in 2008 after learning that the town had submitted a bond prospectus as having been approved by her when in fact she had not reviewed the document. She called at the time for Mr. Hults’s resignation, but resigned herself when Mr. McGintee refused to fire Mr. Hults.
Mr. Hults signed two confessions before his arrest stating that Mr. McGintee was aware of the fiscal improprieties at Town Hall. In one confession, he stated that he and Mr. McGintee both agreed to use the CPF fund to cover operating expenses, against Ms. Molinari’s advice.