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Southampton swearing-in gets contentious

Anna Throne-Holst

Anna Throne-Holst Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Conciliatory remarks from elected officials of different parties at Tuesday’s Southampton Town swearing-in ceremony turned into fireworks at the town board meeting that followed, after the board’s three Republicans voted to table reappointments to two top positions.

Councilman James Malone’s proposal to table the reappointments of Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato and Town Comptroller Tamara Wright was backed by fellow GOP members Christopher Nuzzi and newcomer Christine Scalera. Malone said he wanted time for the entire board to meet with the two women.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, above, an Independent, and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, vehemently opposed tabling Wright’s appointment, saying the comptroller’s work is online and public and that all board members, including newly elected Scalera, had weeks since the election to meet with both officials. Fleming and Throne-Holst praised Wright’s work, saying she has helped turn around the town’s dismal finances in her three years. Throne-Holst added that, as chief financial officer, she depends on the town comptroller, and the tabling puts that in “limbo.”

After the meeting, Malone said he has no plans to replace either woman, but proposed the tabling for Scalera’s benefit. He didn’t agree the delay affected town business.

“I have a nice, comfortable level of confidence in these key positions,” he said.

Asking for time to meet with Scarlato and Wright is not “unreasonable,” Scalera said.

Fleming voted with the Republicans to table Scarlato’s appointment, saying the town attorney was OK with the delay.

During the discussion, tempers rose as Throne-Holst, Fleming, Malone and Scalera chastised one another for interrupting. Throne-Holst eventually agreed to table Wright’s appointment “in the spirit of cooperation.” Fleming voted no.

Despite the discord at the first meeting of the new year, Fleming said she is optimistic.

“I believe we can all disagree and still have good working relationships,” she said.

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