Editorial: Smart plan for merger of two Suffolk offices

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a press conference in Hauppauge on Jan. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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If at first you don't succeed, and the next attempt doesn't get it done, you must keep trying if the idea makes sense.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone keeps trying to merge the offices of comptroller and treasurer, and he now seems to have a plan that can work.

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Suffolk is the only county in the state that elects both a treasurer and a comptroller. Bellone has pushed since 2013 to combine the offices and eliminate the post of treasurer. He's right: A merger would save about $800,000 a year and put the county's financial operations in one office.

The office of treasurer does not have a political or policy-making role, so there's no reason to elect that official. But Bellone's attempts to consolidate the offices ran into trouble because in trying to do it too quickly, he would have knocked Treasurer Angie Carpenter out of the final three years of her term. The move also could have given Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, who would have taken over the new office just as his term-limited tenure was ending, a leg up in running for the post.

That plan was struck down in court. Now Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) has proposed eliminating the treasurer role on the final day of 2017. That would be the last day in office for Carpenter. And it means voters choosing a comptroller in November would cast ballots knowing that whoever is elected will control the operation in the final year of the term.

Although a term limit bars Carpenter from seeking her post again, she spoke out at a hearing on Tuesday against allowing a voter referendum that would make the consolidation possible. She believes keeping both posts elective creates checks and balances. We think it creates excessive spending and patronage. Lindsay's legislation seems to be the best way to respond to opposition while achieving the goal of consolidation.

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