The Glen Cove City Council failed to appoint a new controller at its meeting Tuesday and instead gave the deputy mayor temporary authority to certify payroll, ensuring that city employees are paid despite the vacancy.
The council voted 6-1 to table a vote to appoint Michael A. Piccirillo as controller to replace Sandra Clarson, who was terminated this month.
Mayor Timothy Tenke, a Democrat, said he asked for Clarson’s resignation in December, and over the past few months he has brought in several candidates to interview for the position. All had been “summarily dismissed” by the Republican-controlled City Council, Tenke said.
Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck, a Republican, said Tenke agreed to table the appointment because of pending litigation. Clarson filed a lawsuit last week in Nassau Supreme Court seeking a declaratory judgment stating that she is still the controller.
"The controller's entitled to her day in court, so I think we're kind of waiting for the outcome of that," Panzenbeck said, adding that she did not support the decision to terminate Clarson.
Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, who voted against holding up the appointment and with Tenke is the only Democrat on the council, said after the meeting that the mayor “has the right to appoint a staff that he can work with.”
“This gentleman was qualified, as are many other candidates who have been brought in for this role,” Silverman said. “Unfortunately, the mayor’s been stonewalled on a lot of appointments.”
Without a controller, paychecks to city employees were delayed last week. Tenke said in a statement that he needed to issue an executive order to authorize Deputy Mayor Maureen Basdavanos to certify the payroll so funds could be disbursed.
The council unanimously approved a resolution giving Basdavanos temporary authority to certify payroll and make certain budget transfers until a new controller is appointed or there is a judgment in a lawsuit that Clarson filed Aug. 20 against Tenke and the city.
The city council on Tuesday also approved hiring special counsel for Tenke in the case at an hourly rate not to exceed $195. City Attorney Charles McQuair said at the meeting that it’s not an “uncommon” practice to hire outside counsel when a “council or town board is not agreeing with its CEO or supervisor.”
McQuair will represent the city and city council in the case.
Clarson’s attorney, Tip Henderson — a former chair of Glen Cove’s Republican committee — spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and encouraged Tenke to “resolve this matter amicably” and reinstate Clarson until at least the November election, so she can help prepare the budget before its expected approval in October.
“I know you have an issue with her and I understand that, but I’m hoping you can put that aside and try and do what I think is in the best interest of the city by bringing her back,” Henderson said.
A spokesman for Tenke did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.