Rebecca Molinaro will replace Larry Cantwell as East Hampton Village administrator, Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. announced at a Village Board meeting on Friday. Ms. Molinaro, who is the village clerk-treasurer in Westhampton Beach, will start her new job on May 1.
Ms. Molinaro worked as an executive assistant to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. for 10 years before joining Westhampton Beach three years ago. She has a master’s degree in public policy from Stony Brook University.
“Becky’s education and work experience is directly within the area of expertise required for the position of village administrator and this makes her an outstanding choice to carry on the tradition of good work by Larry,” a statement from Mayor Rickenbach said. “They will work together beginning in May until Larry’s expected retirement in July.”
“I’m just very excited,” Ms. Molinaro said after the meeting. “It’s an amazing opportunity for anyone who’s worked with the mayor and his board,” she said. “We bounce a lot of ideas off each other” already, she said, naming new local laws, local efficiency grants from the state and beach erosion as the types of issues common to the villages of both East Hampton and Westhampton Beach.
“Both villages are intimately involved with the same government agencies,” she said, mentioning the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example. “I’m waiting for my check,” she said of storm-related reimbursement that is due to Westhampton Beach from the agency.
In Westhampton Beach, Ms. Molinaro has been at the center of a recent controversy over an error that resulted in the overpayment of a total of approximately $22,000 to the village’s 34 full-time employees last year. She has had the support of Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Conrad Teller, but village trustees have authorized an audit of village finances that has not yet been completed and the error has led to discord among them.
Ms. Molinaro said on Friday that Westhampton Beach Village is in the process of making payroll adjustments and that the state comptroller has done a risk assessment and decided it would not be doing an audit. While not a common error, she said, it was not an unusual one either for public or private payrolls on the same payment cycle.
“The mayor’s aware of the issues that took place there regarding some payroll error,” Mr. Cantwell said on Friday. “My guess is that it would have been handled professionally and as a matter of business in the Village of East Hampton, as opposed to individual board members trying to make political points.”
“I don’t think it’s a reflection on Becky’s professionalism or competence in any way,” Mr. Cantwell said.
Ms. Molinaro said she will stay on in Westhampton Beach until April 30 to see the budget process through, as it will have to be prepared for adoption in May. Mr. Cantwell said he will stay on in East Hampton until July to help see its budget, which is on a later time line, to completion.
Asked if the controversy in Westhampton Beach had led her to apply for the position in East Hampton, Ms. Molinaro said she did not have a “personal comment.”
“I will continue to do my job for the mayor and the village, but when the opportunity arose in East Hampton Village, I would be personally remiss if I did not take the opportunity to apply for the job,” she said. “Just from a government point of view, East Hampton Village is an epitome of professionalism and efficiency. Anyone who would not try to be part of that system, you certainly would be missing out on an opportunity to be part of that government.”
Ms. Molinaro’s starting salary will be $95,000, which the mayor said is a slight increase over her present rate of pay. It is about half of what Mr. Cantwell is paid as village administrator, a position he has held for 30 years. In East Hampton Village, Ms. Molinaro will be “the point person” for the Village Board, the mayor said, and for the village’s various departments and the population, which surges in summer in Westhampton Beach as it does in East Hampton. Working in village government, Ms. Molinaro said, “has an impact on people’s daily lives almost immediately,” whether that means police protection, potholes or leaf pickup. She called it “very tangible.”
Mayor Rickenbach said Mayor Teller, “a professional and personal friend” who shares a background in law enforcement, was “extremely effusive” in his recommendation of Ms. Molinaro, describing her as “a class act.” Nine candidates interviewed with the Village Board for the replacement position earlier in February, which the mayor called “an interesting process” that board members found instructive.