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Huntington board to seek town finance review

The Huntington Town Board has voted unanimously to ask the state comptroller to conduct a performance and or program audit of town finances.

Board member Gene Cook offered a resolution at Tuesday night's board meeting, but because it contained language that questioned the timing of the town comptroller's recent resignation, Supervisor Frank Petrone and board members Mark Cuthbertson and Susan Berland withheld their support. They had no problem with a state audit.

"We have a philosophy here," said Petrone, who sponsored an amended resolution. "We do not close the door to the comptroller."

Cook, an Independent on a board with three Democrats and a Republican, sent a letter last month to the governor, state comptroller, state attorney general and the Suffolk district attorney requesting an audit of the town.

He said the town had not been audited since 1997 and was overdue for more oversight. He has also publicly questioned the accounting practices of Tracy Yogman, the town's comptroller of four years. Yogman resigned last month after receiving an offer from a nonprofit organization that represented a $50,000 salary increase, town officials said.

Each year, the town is audited by an independent auditor whose reports, and others generated by the town, are sent to the state comptroller's office, town officials said. But Cook said there could be as much as $100 million in misappropriated funds.

"How would we know?" Cook said. "It's been 15 years."

In other board action, a measure to regulate the size of banner signs, also known as "feather" sign advertisements, which are classified as temporary signs in the town code, was approved.

The amendment will ensure such signs are installed properly after getting a permit. It also will require the square footage of all temporary signs to not exceed 64 square feet. The amendment also redefines the term "banner" to include signs such as those that are pinned to the ground.

Berland, sponsor of a resolution to establish legislation on bamboo usage, pulled it from the agenda after Cuthbertson, board member Mark Mayoka and Cook said they would not support it.

The resolution called for establishing a 10-foot buffer between new plantings of bamboo and the property line. It also would require a property owner whose bamboo has migrated to a neighboring property to dig a 4-foot-deep trench and fill it with something such as concrete to stop its spread.

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