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May 27, 2009 11:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town restructures its finance department, hires new comptroller

May 27, 2009 11:52 AM

After months of debate and speculation, the Southampton Town Board on Friday agreed to restructure the municipality’s financial department, demoting Town Comptroller Steve Brautigam and appointing Tamara Wright, the town’s financial consultant since June 2008, in his place.

Starting on Monday, June 1, Ms. Wright will assume Mr. Brautigam’s post as town comptroller and earn $115,000 per year. Mr. Brautigam, 
who had come under fire for his job performance in recent months, will 
resign to accept a newly created position in the General Services Department, assistant town management services administrator. Mr. Brautigam will make $100,000 a year—or $17,000 less than his current salary as comptroller.

The resolution was approved by a 4-1 vote during a special Town Board meeting on Friday, with only Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi objecting. He said he opposed the measure because the Town Board is creating a new and protected position for Mr. Brautigam, who, the councilman said, has not performed up to his job requirements as town comptroller.

“It’s not a secret that there have been numerous questions about the comptroller in position,” Mr. Nuzzi said prior to Friday’s vote. “Why are we rewarding those issues with a six-figure salary and benefits? ... How do we justify to the taxpayers, and other employees, a $100,000 job with benefits?”

Additionally, Mr. Nuzzi said he opposes the move because it creates another position at Town Hall, which will cost the town more money, and because the post was established after the town had instituted a hiring freeze.

But both Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Councilwoman Nancy Graboski disputed that statement, with Ms. Kabot noting that the approved resolution was “budget neutral,” because Mr. Brautigam’s new position, under an earlier title of director of audit and control, is already included in the budget. That position, which was budgeted with a salary of $85,000 a year plus benefits, was abolished in the resolution approved on Friday.

Mr. Nuzzi added that Sandra Cirincione, who also holds the title of assistant town management services administrator and will be working alongside Mr. Brautigam, received a $1,500 raise and will now be making $100,000 a year. The councilman said she received a raise so Mr. Brautigam would not be making more money than she is.

Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who upset her fellow board members in February when she spoke publicly about plans to introduce a similar resolution that would have demoted Mr. Brautigam and replaced him with Ms. Wright, also disagreed with Mr. Nuzzi’s assessment of the resolution. Ms. Throne-Holst agreed that the changes will have no financial impact, noting it required only that the board reallocate money already in the budget.

Additionally, Ms. Throne-Holst noted that Mr. Brautigam’s new civil service position comes with a six-month probationary period.

Peter Collins, the president of the Civil Service Employees Association and an employee of the Southampton Town Highway Department, lambasted the Town Board for creating a new position for the embattled town comptroller in the middle of a hiring freeze.

“We’re threatened with layoffs all the time,” Mr. Collins said about his union. “Now we have this ... Did $100,000 miraculously appear in the budget?”

On Tuesday, Ms. Throne-Holst again emphasized that the changes, namely the elimination of one unfilled position and the creation of a new post, will not result in more spending. 
She stressed that the director of audit and control position was already budgeted for in the town’s 2009 spending plan.

“We shuffled the deck in a way that will serve our needs,” she said.

Still, Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Nuzzi agreed that the decision to restructure the town’s comptroller’s office should have been made on Tuesday night, during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting. Instead, the changes were adopted during a sparsely attended special meeting on Friday. At that meeting, Mr. Nuzzi asked why board members were voting on the resolution “under the cloak of darkness on the Friday before Memorial Day?”

“I was unclear why we needed to do it on Friday,” Ms. Throne-Holst said Tuesday. “We usually only have special Town Board meetings when it’s time-sensitive, and that was not the case here.”

Ms. Kabot, who presented the resolution, said she gave her fellow Town Board members ample notification about her intentions on Friday. “Discussion has been going on in executive session for the last four months,” she added.

When interviewed last week, Mr. Brautigam said he was happy with the shift in position even though he is 
taking a $17,000 pay cut. He noted that, as of June 1, he will be a civil service employee, when, in the past, he was a political appointee whose contract was set to expire at the end of the year.

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This is what Anna Throne-Holst proposed earlier this year. We could have save time,and money, if we listened to her. Now let's watch Linda Kabot make this the center piece of her campaign.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 22, 09 5:56 PM
I've been impressed with Ms. Throne-Holst's actions in the past, but I am extremely disappointed that she, of all people, supported this motion. Yes, in February this was a viable and sensible option.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the budget was passed based on erroneous figures. The Town doesn't actually have the money in the capital fund that it thought was present when they passed the budget.

I fail to see how creating another position (this EXACT scenario was mentioned in ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 23, 09 8:07 AM
Well once again we have spent some money and protect someone who has no clue what is going on. Blowes gets another assistant for his empire. Whatever happened to the lawyer he has in his office? I thought that person was the assistant GSA? Well no need to worry this additional 100K in addition to the 10 million Kabot spent in her first year is budget neutral as well. The problem is people think budget neutral is that same as negative……….that’s what this appointment of another GSA staff member ...more
By Politicssh (2), Sag Harbor on May 23, 09 8:13 AM
of course the new GSA person is on six months probation and can be let go anytime .......
By Politicssh (2), Sag Harbor on May 23, 09 8:16 AM
We have lost confidence in Mr. Brautigam, and the board has (finally) reached a consensus that he should no longer be the comptroller. We cannot keep this person in this important position to save money...that would lose money. I understand your gripe with this but, he is a CIVIL SERVANT and can not be easily let go…like the real world. The guy must go, and it should have been done months ago like Anna proposed.
As far as Mr. Nuzzi, he was a board member when the problems were being created. ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 23, 09 10:13 AM
@SHNative, according to the article, he was appointed to the Comptroller position. Anybody that is appointed can be let go. They CREATED a civil service position for him, thus making it more difficult to let him go. They certainly were under no obligation (that I know of) to create a new position for him.

More to the point is they used the budget as a REASON to do this! I don't know about you, but I don't think the budget is of much use now.

Last month I thought I had 1M ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 23, 09 12:01 PM
diy-guy…I was incorrect by saying that Comptroller Steve Brautigam was a civil servant. You are absolutely correct by saying he is appointed. By being an appointed official, he is guaranteed his salary for the rest of the year and cannot be just let go (he has to agree with this move). Wright is employed by the town so by moving Brautigam to an existing and funded position at a lower salary and plugging in Wright as comptroller is a municipal shuffle that needs to happen. This needed to happen…months ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 23, 09 2:11 PM
Ok, I think I understand the process here. Assuming Wright got a salary increase of $17k, it would be an even swap. I doubt that's the case, but I understand what is happening.

I still don't agree with rewarding a person when a sub-par job is done (the reward being a more secure position-- obviously you don't take a 17k pay cut unless you fear not being reappointed). I'm curious as to when the term was up?

Why not promote Wright to "Superintendent of Comptroller", you know, ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 23, 09 3:22 PM
Peter principal. At all levels.
By kpjc (159), east quogue on May 23, 09 7:07 PM
If the town "fires him", Brautigam still gets his salary until the end of the year. The General services position existed...this was a necessary municipal shuffle the needed to happen along time ago. Where the heck has Nuzzi been...where are his creative solutions. He came from Brookhaven to our town and presided over the biggest financial mess-up in our history and now he is going to bee fiscally responsible...it is a bit late for that.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 25, 09 1:43 PM
Ha...that's funny...no I am not a Shinnecock. I've been following this, and the position existed but was never filled...the position existed, was funded, but was not filled. The reporter got it wrong...or is a bit confused...perhaps by Nuzzi's obvious electioneering. It would be nice just to give Brautigam his walking papers but we still would be paying his salary. So either we keep him and nothing changes or we move him to get someone who knows how to run the finances of municipal government.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 25, 09 9:21 PM
So, cut our losses and pay him through the end of the year. But don't CREATE a $100,000 position for him. Let's stop throwing good taxpayer dollars after bad. We can't afford this any longer. Stop the insanity!
By lol@hb (20), hampton bays on May 26, 09 9:49 AM
so let me get this straight... a guy totally mismanages our money, to the point where we can't even figure out where it went... and all he gets a $17,000 pay cut?

AND we also create a new position for him with "undefined" responsibilities?

What is wrong with these people?
By littleplains (305), olde england on May 26, 09 10:40 AM
All of us in the real world who botched their job on this massive a level WOULD NO LONGER HAVE ONE WITH THE COMPANY WE WORKED FOR.

I hereby invite this town government to join the "real world", and stop screwing their constituents.
By Mr. Z (10419), North Sea on May 26, 09 12:23 PM
in response to INS-Nuzzi was born and raised on the east end. he is a property owner and taxpayer like the rest of us and has lived in the town for years. let's not get mislead by inaccuracies and focus on the fact that Nuzzi is the only one who stood up for town residents against this measure.
By southfork11960 (14), Southampton on May 27, 09 10:40 AM
The crux of the budget problems was the lack of controls and fiscal mismanagement. Anna Throne-Holst is correct in suggesting these changes so that we won't have problems that occured in the past, ie, no follow through when the board passes capital ordinances, tracking funds that are transferred between operating accounts, etc. We'll now have someone focused on managing the accounts.
By number19 (107), Westhampton on May 27, 09 4:51 PM
Once again, the comments get more and more tangential, and less to the point. This is a simple case of 4 board members playing politics, and one board member doing the right thing. If you think it's anything else, you're on another planet. This issue is quite simple (and mr. z, littleplains and a few others have hit the nail right on the head) - the Comptroller has failed at his job and should be fired, not given a new position at $100k a year. WAKE UP PEOPLE, we're supposed to be cutting costs, ...more
By WHB Resident (9), WHB on May 28, 09 10:21 AM
Nuzzi was on the board under Heaney…and Kabot. Where was his leadership then? Why didn’t he ask the necessary questions then? It took Throne-Holst to persist and get these financial problems public for Nuzzi to even notice. He as demonstrated that he does not understand municipal government by letting this financial mess develop under his watch and now he is publically criticizing a necessary move in town hall…Nuzzi does not understand how to get things accomplished in town government. He is pandering ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on May 28, 09 11:23 AM
Like King Richard needs another gofer in the office. If he works for King RIchard you can bet his salary will jump in a year or two. Look at anyone else who had ever worked for Richard. Linda, Anna, are you listening>?
By Terry (380), Southampton on May 28, 09 3:05 PM
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