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Southampton Town board's cooperation fizzles

The promise of bipartisan cooperation in Southampton lasted only as long as it took the new town board Tuesday to vote on its first resolution.

At an organizational meeting last week, the board - which was left with four members when Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst was sworn in as town supervisor - said it would not fill vacancies on nine key advisory boards, but instead invited anyone in town to submit a resume for those jobs.

On Tuesday, there was a resolution on the agenda to appoint William Berkoski Jr. to a four-year seat on the planning board. A half dozen people in the audience spoke against the appointment. None complained about Berkoski, a respected local businessman. Each said it was important to review all possible candidates.

But Councilman Christopher Nuzzi said Berkoski's credentials were outstanding and that the planning board is overworked.

Throne-Holst, the only board member to run on the Democratic line, said nine people have applied for a seat on one advisory board and eight have applied for another. "He [Berkoski] was hand-picked and allowed to go before the rest of the line," she said. "I'm very disappointed."

Nuzzi said Berkoski - who runs a family ice, fuel and security service - has lived in the town for years, served on the Assessment Review Board and the town Business Advisory Council. "He has proved his commitment and worth," he said.

Then, at the end of the meeting, it was Throne-Holst's turn to seek an appointment. She asked that Town Comptroller Tamara Wright - who is working as a holdover appointment - be given a two-year term.

The supervisor argued Wright is working overtime with state officials to resolve the multimillion-dollar errors of a previous administration, and will meet with bond rating agencies in two weeks, a conference that could effect Southampton's credit rating and the interest it will pay on bonds.

"How would it look if we have to hire our fourth comptroller in two years?" Throne-Holst asked.

But Nuzzi said it would be better to put off any decision on extending her contract until the current forensic audits are completed, and her work can be fully reviewed. Newly elected Councilman James Malone agreed - both men abstained on the vote.

Republican Councilwoman Nancy Graboski voted with the Throne-Holst, but with the empty town board seat, two votes were not enough to pass the resolution.

Wednesday night, the town Republican Party will meet in Hampton Bays to name its candidate for a special March 9 election to fill the open town board seat. Democrats plan to name their candidate Thursday.

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