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Oct 13, 2009 6:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Board discusses staff cuts in closed session

Oct 13, 2009 6:51 PM

The East Hampton Town Board retreated to a day-long executive session to discuss staffing in the proposed 2010 budget on Tuesday. The closed session, which appears to have violated the New York State Open Meetings Law, comes shortly after former Supervisor Bill McGintee, who resigned last week, proposed a $71.8 million budget that carries a 10-percent tax hike, coming on top of a 24-percent increase last year.

Boards are permitted to go into executive session to discuss specific personnel issues, but they sometimes overstep the bounds permitted by the open meetings law, which limits those issues to contract negotiations and job performance evaluations. Town Board members said those issues may have been a portion of what was discussed but were likely not all that was to be discussed at Tuesday’s work session.

According to New York State Open Meetings Law “matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person” can be discussed in executive session, though the Town Board cannot enact any resolutions based on those discussions until it reconvenes in open session.

Deputy Town Supervisor Pete Hammerle, who is acting as supervisor until the end of the year, said after announcing the session that it would be held in private because, given the small size of the town’s work force, it would be easy for listeners to determine which employees’ jobs were potentially on the chopping block. Mr. Hammerle said that he did not expect any resolutions to be enacted after the executive session was over, but that he would call reporters if it did so. The board met all day without a lunch break.

Town Board member Julia Prince was visibly excited as she prepared to go into the budget session, saying that she’d been asking other members of the board for a long time to knuckle down and pare back staffing. She said that the nature of the executive session would make it easier for Town Board members to honestly discuss the necessity of a wide range of positions in Town Hall without spreading rumors that particular employees’ jobs are on the chopping block.

“I’m interested in scaling back in this budget. That might not be the most politically advisable thing to do, but I don’t care about politics. I care about the taxpayer,” she said.

“I’m excited too, but I’m sad to be kicked out,” said Prudence Carabine, a write-in candidate for Town Board who said that she’d stayed up most of the night studying the budget in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting. She added that she was pleased that Mr. Hammerle agreed to entertain an honest discussion of staffing at Town Hall, which she said would never have occurred if Town Supervisor Bill McGintee hadn’t resigned last week. She said that if it took an executive session to get the Town Board to finally address tough issues, she would forgive it once.

“My feeling is we give them today and then we scream if they try to do it again,” she said as she stood outside Town Hall Tuesday morning.

Ms. Carabine last week began running radio ads on WLNG urging residents to call members of the Town Board to complain about the budget increase.

“Have you gotten any calls?” she asked Ms. Prince.

“Hundreds,” responded Ms. Prince.

“My ad worked,” said Ms. Carabine.

The 2010 budget has drawn criticism from many watchdogs who have complained in particular about the lack of year-to-year staffing information in the document. In order to tell if a department has added or reduced personnel, readers must sit with copies of both the 2009 and 2010 budgets side-by-side and compare them, department by department, and some employees have been moved between departments, further complicating analysis.

Ms. Prince said that the town has not yet produced a variance report to find out whether staffing has decreased in the proposed 2010 budget, though she said that she expects that document to be ready within two weeks. She said that she believes that town staffing has already gone down due to a hiring freeze this year, but does not yet have accurate numbers to back up that information.

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Well Pete Hammerle said "everything would be the same" , I guess he ment the Board will continue the closed door policy that has been in effect for years. Cutbacks may if fact be needed. A great starting point would be the political hacks hired by the Town in recent years, most of whom are not union members. You don't have to look to far, start with the supervisors assitant.
By EHT employee (7), east hampton on Oct 14, 09 10:50 AM
It sure is good to hear that they are finally starting to look at this huge problem. The McGintee regime hired way too many people just because he or she knew somebody. Time to start cutting heavily with all these un-necessary jobs that were made up. Starting with the supervisors assistant is a great idea. Time to start giving help were it is truly needed
By letskeepitreal (15), sagharbor on Oct 14, 09 1:25 PM
Starting with the McGintee hires, the Town's payroll needs to be cut back. The unearned bonuses and pay raises to the "chosen few" need to be ended.

Maybe the salvage of deposit cans and plastic bottles should be put out to bid? And the metals at the recycling area? I'm sure a COMPETENT salvor could pay the Town some money and remove enough tonnage to , in effect, "earn" the Town a worthwhile sum.

And that's a bare begining.......
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on Oct 14, 09 7:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
How about the accounting priniciple of LIFO - Last In First Out? I believe McGintee hired over 50 new non-essential employees, beyond replacing retirees. Except for new police hires that replace retirees - everyone else that was hired by him should go. How did the Town manage before he started his spending binge? Answer: Very well indeed thank you!
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Oct 15, 09 4:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
So Code Enforcement Department Head Dominick Schirrapa was the first to go. Before Lynn Ryan?!? Wow. Guess he and Pete and former Code Enforcement Officer Julia Prince just didn't get along, and perhaps Bill protected him a bit? Personal politics sure can be a dirty business. Time to get rid of all of it!
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 15, 09 11:00 PM
I think we should start with Hammerle
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Oct 19, 09 12:57 PM