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Oct 19, 2009 9:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town had difficulty with head count of workers

Oct 19, 2009 9:42 AM

As Southampton Town officials scrambled late last month to compile a proposed $78.8 million budget that included significant cuts in staffing, officials struggled simply to ascertain the exact number of full-time employees hired by the town in a given year.

Supervisor Linda Kabot has proposed layoffs for next year that would bring staff counts to levels not seen since 2002. If the 44 layoffs proposed by Ms. Kabot are approved, there would be 501 full-time employees in 2010, compared with 497 full-time employees in 2002.

But arriving at those numbers was not a simple task. The trouble was evidenced in a Freedom of Information Law request filed by The Press earlier this year. The request sought numbers of full-time staff dating back to 1996, but it was answered with inaccurate data, said Town Comptroller Tamara Wright.

The numbers in the FOIL request either overstated or understated the number of full-time town employees in a given year. Ms. Wright said the numbers in the FOIL request were derived from historical data for “full-time equivalent” employees dating back to 1996, as shown in year-end comprehensive annual financial reports compiled by former Comptroller Charlene Kagel.

In at least two of those financial reports for 2005 and 2006, staff counts were either under- or over-reported, depending on the year, Ms. Wright said. For example, the financial reports list 420 full-time employees in 2002, when the actual number was 497 employees. In 2004, 450 full-time employees were listed by the financial reports, though the real number was 545 employees.

“There are a lot of things wrong in it,” Ms. Wright said of the financial reports.

Ms. Kagel did not immediately return a call for comment.

In trying to double-check the numbers in the financial reports, Ms. Wright said she was unable to figure out how the numbers were arrived at. “I couldn’t find a document in the comptroller’s office that backs up how they got to that 450 employees,” Ms. Wright said.

She tried other means of doing an employee head count. The comptroller began searching databases maintained by the town’s human resources office, but she discovered that staff levels data beyond 2002 was unavailable. “When they changed databases in 2002, they didn’t transfer over some historical data, so it’s unreliable,” Ms. Wright said.

Ms. Wright then ordered a count of year-end paychecks received by full-time employees in prior years. But she was unable to count paychecks beyond 2002 because supporting documents for payroll had been disposed of by the town clerk’s office, in accordance with state law, she said.

Ms. Wright felt “confident” that the new head count numbers from 2002 to 2009 are accurate. She said the discrepancy between the new numbers and those in the financial reports might be due to inconsistent reporting by department heads of the staff working in so-called “enterprise funds,” such as the town’s Beach Enterprise Fund and Land Management Enterprise Fund, which are financed by fee revenue rather than property tax revenue. Because of this, Ms. Wright said department heads often chose not to include enterprise fund staff counts in their annual budget reports, a practice that continued into 2008.

“Because they didn’t support those costs with taxpayer dollars, they didn’t see the need to report those costs,” Ms. Wright said. “You might not see it, but there are 15 people working there. The town really didn’t have good reporting on its staff count.”

Bryan Finlayson

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I think this current administration has responded in a good way to making the budget prrocess as transparent as possible; I'm impressed with the budget being posted on the Town website - everything is there and hopefully going forward the Town can provide whatever data is needed accurately.
That said, I re-calll the time in the 1970's New York City financial crisis that when asked how many employees were on the City payroll, the City's budget director could not answer the question - he didn't ...more
By North of Highway (279), Westhampton Beach on Oct 15, 09 1:34 PM
The entire published short story should be read because it contains information about a practice that has created additional problems - the willful and maybe legal destruction of back-up personnel data by the Southampton Town Clerk. To quote the last sentence or two "Ms. Wright then ordered a count of year-end paychecks. But she was unable to count paychecks beyond 2002, because supporting documents for payroll had been disposed of by the town clerk’s office." The financial mess just seems to get ...more
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Oct 16, 09 11:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
No-show jobs??? Is that what's being suggested here?

But Foodie, it's always been apparent where your political allegiances lie, but how do you get from "supporting documents for payroll had been disposed of by the town clerk’s office, in accordance with state law," to "the willful and maybe legal destruction of back-up personnel data by the Southampton Town Clerk?"

The story states that the disposition (as opposed to "destruction") was done "in accordance with state law," so where's ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1765), Northampton on Oct 19, 09 10:45 AM
Want to find the crooks? Follow the money. Town hall is dirty, and has been for decades.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 11:07 AM
This is the most outrageous new disclosure of them all on top of the
vanishing $20 milliion. They don't know even how many of those nasty, unhelpful Patronistas are hanging out at Town Hall at taxpayer expense. Do they know how many publically paid for cars they are driving? And how many hours a week they actually put in? The firing should start with Blowes and the "top-tier" seat warmers and incompetents. And we could do without the dubious "planners" as well. All of them paid much more ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 6:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
i am handicapped. i wil never ever forget the day i was in town hall, i asked for help, and the man sitting behind the counter, doing nothing LAUGHED at me.
By local (106), north sea on Oct 19, 09 10:19 PM
i did not misinterpret his bahavior. i know what i saw.
By local (106), north sea on Oct 19, 09 10:20 PM
I hope you made a complaint to someone in Town Hall. If you are correct, that man should be among the first to go.
By SusieD (109), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 11:13 PM
More mismanagement. The town needs to be run by a CEO who knows how to run a business. There is just no leadership at the top and when times are good it goes unnoticed, but when times are bad and you need to perform thats when the weakness shows through.

Get out and vote people and look for business qualifications so the town wont have to be in this position again.
By North Sea Citizen (470), North Sea on Oct 20, 09 7:21 AM
When times are good people don't notice, but when times get tough people forget who was at the helm. Heaney was in charge, but for years he had three democrats on the board who did little to stop the mess he created.

Linda has been uncovering some of the hidden problems and tackling them valiantly. I agree we need people who know how to run big organizations successfully. We need people with extensive management and administrative experience, not to folks who speak appealingly, but who ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 21, 09 10:46 AM
Not only did the crowd so long in power fail to transfer moneys that had to be transferred, not only did they neglect to fund capital projects properly, not only did they ignore the most basic accounting rules, not only did they let the payroll balloon to an outlandish size, now we learn that they can't even tell how many souls are on that payroll. Unbelievable.

Most of the crowd so long in power have left elective office, wisely opting for appointed sinecures in the obscure gears and ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1790), Quiogue on Oct 21, 09 11:48 PM
In order to keep track of things like how many people we have on the payroll, we need people on the Town Board who can devote the time that the task requires. The present Town Board members all serve full-time with the exception of Chris Nuzzi, who's almost full-time with apparently flexible hours on his outside work. That's what's required, especially in this difficult period for the Town.

Conservative Party Chairman and Republican candidate for Town Board Jim Malone has not told us ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1790), Quiogue on Oct 23, 09 1:18 PM
Full time board? Where has Sally been in the 9 months in office? Certainly not in Town Hall! and she doesn't have a full time job!

I think elected officials should have time cards!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Oct 23, 09 3:10 PM
You've picked a good screen name for yourself, Ridiculous. Follow Sally Pope around for a week -- or even for a day -- and you'll be amazed at how much she puts into this job. I have, and I know. It's not sitting at a desk in Town Hall, it's getting out with the people and seeing what's what. It's snatching time in transit, over coffee, at home, wherever you can, to read up on resolutions and reports. It's doing a tremendous amount of night work. Almost every evening finds Ms. Pope at some ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1790), Quiogue on Oct 23, 09 8:42 PM
Chris Nuzzi's Sign Dogs are back again, pulling out opposition signs and throwing them in the woods. Even if he didn't start it, Chris Nuzzi can make it stop, and he needs to do that, or we'll all think he's OK with this infantile cheating.
By Turkey Bridge (1790), Quiogue on Oct 29, 09 3:29 PM
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