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Acting comptroller to oversee town finances, budget in Hempstead

Averil Smith was named Hempstead Town's acting comptroller.

Averil Smith was named Hempstead Town's acting comptroller. Credit: North Hempstead Town

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen has named the town's director of finance as the new acting comptroller to oversee finances and draft next year’s budget.

Gillen appointed Averil Smith to succeed Comptroller Kevin Conroy, who retired and ended his tenure Sunday amid controversy over extending a contract for a Freeport company to operate the town-owned Malibu Beach Park.

Smith is a certified public accountant and previously served as the comptroller for North Hempstead for three years before she was hired in January 2018 to serve in Gillen’s administration as a $155,000 finance director. She will maintain her current salary as acting comptroller.

She previously worked as a financial auditor for Ernst and Young. She would be the first female and first African American comptroller in town history, Gillen's administration said. 

“Averil Smith is an exceptionally talented and uniquely qualified financial expert who is needed to help oversee the Town’s finances,” Gillen said. “Her prior experience ferreting out corruption and overseeing public dollars with an eagle eye approach is exactly what taxpayers want.” 

Conroy, 62, announced earlier this month that he planned to retire Aug. 26 from the $168,000 position because of health reasons. He had worked for the town for 23 years and retired shortly after the town came under scrutiny for extending a contract for the Dover Gourmet Corp. to operate the town’s Malibu Beach Park.

Conroy said his retirement was unrelated to the contract and he was not involved in negotiating the terms or reviewing the contract before it was signed. The contract is now under federal investigation after Dover Gourmet chief executive Butch Yamali did not pay the town rent for nearly a year amid a dispute over capital improvements.

Smith’s appointment can stand until Republican majority town board members vote on her position or make another nomination for town comptroller. The board last year hired John Mastromarino as financial consultant for $50,000 a year to assist in drafting the 2019 budget.

Conroy and Smith backed competing budget proposals last year. Gillen and Smith opposed a calculation by Conroy that included $12 million in anticipated retirement savings in the 2019 budget.

Town board members added more than 70 amendments to Gillen’s 2019 budget, which passed 6-1 and included an anticipated $8.5 million in expected retirements, resulting in a 3.45 percent tax cut. Gillen voted against the amended $432.5 million budget, arguing the projected savings were not sustainable.

Gillen’s administration said they are meeting with departments to project expenses.

“I am humbled that Supervisor Gillen has asked me to serve in this vital role, and I look forward to scrutinizing every taxpayer dollar that flows through town hall,” Smith said.

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