Tensions flare at Brightwaters audit meeting

Mayor Joseph A. McNulty. Mayor Joseph A. McNulty. Photo Credit: Handout

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A Brightwaters board of trustees meeting to discuss a state audit critical of the handling of village finances splayed into shouting and accusations of wrongdoing.

Mayor Joseph A. McNulty called for Thursday's meeting after last month's release of the state comptroller's audit, which found the village overestimated its revenue, leading to three years of budget deficits.

He began the meeting -- attended by about 25 residents -- by reading aloud the village's official response.

In one exchange, McNulty exploded under resident Carmine Chiappetta's aggressive questions about the trustee's plans to fix finances. "You hold on! Now I'm going to tell you!" McNulty shouted, pointing his finger.

The village, McNulty said, is working on an action plan to address the audit's findings and has taken corrective action on several issues, including more accurate revenue estimates and proper oversight of village expenditures.

The plan, which is being compiled by Trustee Denise Gibson, is due to the state in May, he said.

Gibson urged residents to look at other municipal audits performed by the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "It is their job to point out the negatives," she said. "You will see a pattern to what these people do."

Donna Periconi, a Brightwaters resident and president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore, voiced support for the board. "All they do is criticize," she said of the auditors. "They never say one nice thing."

The meeting also included a heated debate over village meetings. John Valdini, a former trustee and frequent board critic, accused board members of flouting state open-meetings law. Valdini said he saw several of the trustees' cars at village hall on March 8. "Are you going to continue to have illegal meetings?" he asked. "If you're going to continue, you have no credibility."

McNulty said the board had met in what he described as an executive session, which is closed to the public. State law requires a majority vote during an open meeting to go into executive session. The meeting was not announced to the public, McNulty acknowledged.

McNulty said he called the meeting to discuss the village's finances and said he was unaware that it was in violation of state law, but after hearing from Valdini realized his "mistake. . . . It was an error on my part. I won't do it again."

But Trustee John J. Riordan said McNulty ignored his advice to publicly advertise the meeting beforehand, as required by the law. Still, he said, he did not think the meeting qualified as an executive session.

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