Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter Monday criticized County Executive Steve Bellone for refusing to approve a hiring of a secretary to speed $165 million in refunds to taxpayers -- the latest skirmish in their ongoing political war.
Bellone, in a Dec. 4 declaration, denied Carpenter the authority to hire for the $46,000 exempt position, which already is in the budget, maintaining a "budget deficiency exists." Bellone aides have said the county expects to end the year with a $10 million budget hole, but a $410 million borrowing later this month will keep the county in cash until county property taxes come in next summer.
Carpenter, in a letter, asked Bellone to reconsider, saying the post "has a direct impact on the financial well-being of homeowners" because the county has more than 35,000 tax adjustments to process, noting the county had to pay $1.3 million interest in 2012 for paying refunds late.
She also called Bellone's refusal "cynical," saying that while refusing her request, he is looking to gut the county's residency law to "accommodate two of his political appointees . . . who do not live or pay taxes here."
Bellone has filed a proposed change to the residency law to permit those hired for county jobs to live as far away as New York City. Bellone has two aides whose one-year waiver to the residency requirement runs out early next year.
Jon Schneider, deputy county executive, countered that Carpenter is complaining because Bellone will not allow her "to fill a political patronage job," a job the county executive would do away with under his proposal to abolish the treasurer's office and merge its functions with the comptroller. He also noted that Carpenter used a GOP political operative to publicize her letter "and did not include her newfound reasons in her original [hiring] request."
It is the latest round between Bellone and Carpenter, who have been battling over the merger since last summer. Bellone said people have a right to vote on the proposal, claiming it will save $700,000. Carpenter said the savings are overblown and Bellone is trying to reduce oversight over his fiscal practices. A planned referendum has been thrown out in court, but Bellone vows to seek a new vote next year.
The clash arises from a 2011 county law that gives the county executive 10 days to deny a request from countywide elected officials to fill budgeted positions in their offices. If the county executive refuses, countywide elected officials can ask the county legislature to authorize the hiring.