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Jul 1, 2009 12:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kabot outlines fiscal troubles

Jul 1, 2009 12:08 PM

During her state of the town financial address Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot stopped short of laying the town’s financial ills at the feet of her predecessor, former supervisor Patrick Heaney, but she went so far as to say that under his administration the town may have violated state finance law.

Those possible violations, Ms. Kabot said, stem from the co-mingling of bond proceeds to advance capital projects using funds not specifically earmarked for those projects. According to Ms. Kabot, the town’s capital fund is owed money from projects, now completed, authorized between 2004 and 2007. “Deferring principal and interest payments allowed the opportunity to provide a ‘tax holiday’ for re-election purposes,” Ms. Kabot said.

The financial state of the town is one of three speeches given annually by the supervisor, Ms. Kabot said. “It’s to outline for the public and the board where we are.”

But some Town Board members responding to the speech questioned its purpose and timing because, they say, the bottom line of the town’s finances is still not available.

“I’m not sure what purpose the financial state of the town address served,” said Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who is the Democratic candidate running for supervisor this year. Ms. Kabot, who was passed over for the nomination by the town GOP, is expected to force a Republican primary in the race. “The information was nothing new. We’ve been made aware for quite some time of the accounting discrepancies. But until the budget reconstructions are complete, our new systems up and running and all entries completed around that process, we won’t know what we are talking about in dollars and cents.”

Ms. Throne-Holst also touched on Ms. Kabot’s references to the former administration.

“This looks like yet another exercise in pointing to past financial problems and discrepancies being uncovered, but with no final numbers or solutions,” she said.

In her address, Ms. Kabot referenced the incomplete accounting transactions under the Heaney administration for 2004, 2005 and 2006 in which earmarks from the general fund to pay for capital projects were never moved to the appropriate capital accounts. Ms. Kabot referred to those incomplete transfers of cash as “hidden IOUs” because she was not informed about them until March 2009, although Mr. Heaney’s comptroller, Charlene Kagel, knew about the errors and omissions in the summer of 2007.

“In prior years, this information about deficits and deficiencies was white-washed to the public and kept close to the vest,” Ms. Kabot said. “My style of governance is to embrace transparency and inclusivity, encouraging fellow board members to be actively involved with the budget and finance matters.”

However, Town Councilwoman Sally Pope, who is also running this November to keep her seat on the board, disagreed with that assessment.

“Linda talks about being inclusive,” Ms. Pope said. “But she’s not utilizing the board members enough. We’re not getting enough information. That’s why we didn’t approve her budget cuts.”

Ms. Pope also agreed with Ms. Throne-Holst that the speech lacked substance.

“The town is in a lot of financial trouble, that’s for sure,” she said. “But all the facts and numbers regarding the budget were not clear.”

But veteran board member Nancy Graboski defended the supervisor and said it was prudent to ask those questions about what took place under the prior administration.

“It’s fair to ask why weren’t these transfers made. We’re trying to get some understanding of how these things happened,” Ms. Graboski said. “It certainly didn’t happen on her watch.”

Ms. Graboski, who was booted off the Republican ticket in her 2007 re-election bid, said Ms. Kabot’s transparency with the town’s finances likely cost her the GOP nomination.

“It’s been my experience with Linda that if there is information, whether good, bad or indifferent, you have a responsibility to bring that information to the public. And she did that even though she was told to keep it tight to the vest. But that’s not the right thing to do,” she said.

Disagreeing with Ms. Pope, Ms. Graboski also defended the supervisor’s openness with the other board members. “I’ve been on the board since 2004. And in that time, only within the last 18 months have I received so much information. It’s been outstanding.”

Ms. Graboski also said the speech was right on target.

“I have felt all along that Linda has been taking the bull by the horns in getting a handle on the status of the town’s finances,” Ms. Graboski said. “It’s proved to be very challenging, but she’s the kind of person that, if you have a bank account, she wants it balanced to the penny. Once we know where we are we’ll be able to make prudent decisions going forward. I think the tenor of her remarks underscored the seriousness of the financial situation.”

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Anna Looking-for-a-Throne Holst is the local Sarah Pallin. A died in the wool opportunist. With about as much experience for the job she's reaching for as
Pallin had for the job she was reaching for.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jul 2, 09 11:14 AM
The Supervisor is the chief financial officer of the Town. She is responsible for what happens on her watch. While there may be some merit to Linda Kabot's fixing blame on the Heaney administration, she will take the fall for this incredible mess, because it's her show now. Anna Throne-Holst has been asking where the money went, what went wrong, and how to fix it, almost from her first day on the Town Board. Ditto Sally Pope, who was the first to take the hard step of calling for a State audit. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 2, 09 8:03 PM
Here's a bumper sticker
Kabot spent $8 Million in her first year of office..half of what she "thought" she had in surplus ($16 Million) .... while the rest of the rational board (Nuzzi and ATH) were asking for the balances, Kabot was spending like a drunken sailor!!!!!
But lets not tell them about that....It's all Heaney's fault..just keep saying it and that will make it true..right Linda???
What elected official in thier RIGHT MIND would spend half the ...more
By Hamptonman911 (14), Southampton on Jul 3, 09 4:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Who the hell is she kidding she is blaming "skip out" Heaney
She was under him and now she knows nothing??????
We had "skip out"
She could not manage the bathroom.
She would get confused between round and square paper
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Jul 4, 09 4:48 PM