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Kara Hahn, John Kennedy tangle over Suffolk comptroller budget

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy addresses the State

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy addresses the State of Suffolk County Finances on April 10 at the Gold Coast Reception in Islanida. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy came under fire last week from Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) over $345,000 that lawmakers have added to his budget during the past three years, which Hahn said have yet to yield results.

The legislature, Hahn said, has added $115,000 at his request each year since 2016 to the budget so Kennedy could perform external audits. Kennedy said he could do auditing work for various Suffolk towns on a contract basis so the county could generate revenue.

However, Hahn noted that the 2017 report by the Office of Budget Review disclosed that revenue had not materialized because “the program had not been implemented.”

Hahn complained, “I feel like it’s a shell game. We need it for this and were using it for that. That concerns me.”

Kennedy, appearing before the county legislature, said most of the money was unused in the first year because he did not fill three jobs until November because there was no competitive Civil Service hiring list until after a test was given. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office disputes the assertion.

The comptroller said he’s had talks with Smithtown and Brookhaven about work, but “we don’t have a formal arrangement yet.”

Kennedy also said the county attorney’s office has raised questions about the legality of such an effort. Kennedy said he disagrees with the county attorney’s position.

Kennedy emphasized the increased staff helped his office to increase audit recoveries from $660,000 a year to $2.8 million last year.

“It’s not as if the personnel we brought on were idle, they were involved in our big ticket audits,” he said, including the $1.14 million recovered from Beach Hut, and $194,000 from the Selden-Centereach Youth Association.

But Hahn questioned whether lawmakers will approve the additional funding again.

“When you mislead us on how you’re spending the money we’re going to be more skeptical the second time around,” she said.

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