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Bellone, Carpenter end dispute over secretary's hiring

Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter has hired a $42,000-a-year secretary, a post that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone blocked twice before.

The secretary will start in February, Carpenter said Tuesday. Carpenter declined to name the hire, saying she was not sure if the hire had given notice at her old job.

Bellone, a Democrat, refused late last year to allow Carpenter to fill the position, because of the county’s fiscal position, deputy county executive Jon Schneider said. Bellone has proposed merging Suffolk's treasurer and comptroller's offices to save money, but courts blocked a proposed ballot referendum.

“We’ve now lifted our block and obviously, we’re all willing to be helpful in terms of what’s needed to make sure people get their returns back in time,” Schneider said.

Carpenter said the secretary “will help keep the process moving along” and check calculations on rebates.

She said that even with the new hire, her office isn’t fully staffed, while claims for refunds have jumped up in recent years. “Everybody is multi-tasking, everybody is doing more with less,” Carpenter said.

Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory also is wading into the debate over the hire, asking pointed questions about a backlog of 13,000 unfilled property tax refunds in a letter to Carpenter. Carpenter, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Bellone for county executive in 2011, had said the new employee would help process those refunds.

In the letter last week to Carpenter, Gregory, a Democrat, said the County Legislature wants a timeline for reducing the backlog of property tax rebates and more detail on interest the county has accrued because of delays. Property owners can get rebates when they dispute their property tax assessments.

He also asked that the Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee get quarterly updates on the status of the backlog.

Gregory said he was “glad to see that the County Executive has seen the need to give you the personnel that you feel you need to address the backlog.”

Carpenter said her office is preparing a detailed response to Gregory’s letter.

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