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State audit again questions Glen Cove financial practices

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke said he will

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke said he will implement changes recommended by the state comptroller's office as part of a detailed fiscal-improvement plan. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke said he will follow recommendations by the state comptroller’s office to change what a comptroller audit describes as “imprudent” city financial practices.

Tenke said he plans to discuss the audit — which was released Jan. 12 — with City Council members at an upcoming council work session.

The mayor had previously vowed to implement a recommendation that the city create a multiyear financial plan with specific actions, goals and benchmarks.

“It’s important just as in any business you would run that you need to know what your future costs are going to be and budget for them,” he said.

Much of the report, which reviewed the city’s financial condition and policies from 2013 to 2016, echoed language in previous comptroller’s reports that analyzed each proposed city budget.

Tenke voted for all four budgets, the first two under Mayor Ralph Suozzi and the second two under Mayor Reginald Spinello. Tenke became mayor Jan. 1.

The comptroller’s office has repeatedly criticized the city for relying too heavily on “one-shot revenue,” primarily payments developer RXR Glen Isle Partners made to buy 44 acres for its Garvies Point residential, recreational and commercial project, and building-permit fees for the project.

Spinello defended the use of one-time payments, which he said were key to stabilizing finances and avoiding large tax increases.

“I had to protect the taxpayers so they didn’t continue with the 65 percent tax increase that was handed down by the prior administration,” he said.

Spinello said “the finances of the city are better than they’ve ever been,” pointing to an expected 2017 general-fund surplus of about $5 million, and a $10 million reduction in the city’s debt during his tenure, from 2015 to Jan. 1, 2018.

On Dec. 28, when Spinello was still mayor, city controller Sandra Clarson wrote in a response to an early version of the report that the city either had implemented or will implement all but one recommended change. Tenke said he plans to implement that change, on a detailed fiscal-improvement plan.

Clarson said she began making some of the recommended changes before the report came out. She was appointed controller in December 2016 and said the report “confirmed what I saw,” including that claims, purchasing and payroll procedures should be reviewed more closely and be better documented.

City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, who before she took office Jan. 1 regularly spoke out against some of the same practices criticized by the comptroller, said the Dec. 28 response “is not sufficient,” and called for, among other things, ensuring that “any contract that we grant has the proper bidding procedures in place and have fully vetted cost-benefit analyses.”

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