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Editorial: Smithtown official shouldn't have voted on raise

Councilman Thomas J. McCarthy listens to the Smithtown

Councilman Thomas J. McCarthy listens to the Smithtown Town Board during a meeting on the evening of Feb. 27, 2014. He cast the deciding vote to give himself a $30,000 raise in his role as deputy town supervisor -- a 600 percent increase. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Would you like a 600 percent increase in your salary? Are you in a position to give yourself the money? That's the difference between you and Smithtown Town Councilman Thomas McCarthy. He got the money -- after voting to give himself the raise.

His action is a blatant conflict of interest that utterly fails the smell test. That his "yes" was the deciding vote for a town board otherwise deadlocked, 2-2, only made the situation more reprehensible.

McCarthy earns $55,818 a year for the town board position he has held since 1998. As deputy supervisor since 2008, his stipend was $5,000. After acting in his self-interest, now it's $35,000. McCarthy justifies his vote by saying he now has added responsibilities, related to economic development initiatives. Patrick Vecchio, who has been supervisor for 37 years, and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick voted for the increase. Edward Wehrheim and Robert Creighton said no.

We're not arguing whether McCarthy, Vecchio's staunchest ally, deserves a raise -- although we could note a 600 percent increase would seem to indicate he's doing six times the amount of work. That doesn't seem possible, unless someone else is doing a lot less work. And it doesn't matter that other deputy supervisors in other towns make more money, or that the position is full time in some other places.

What matters is that McCarthy should have recused himself from voting on his own stipend. The resulting tie would have forced the board to come up with something acceptable to all. Something that might have reflected, for example, that McCarthy filled in for Vecchio earlier this year when Vecchio and Nowick temporarily vacated their offices after failing to sign their oaths of office. McCarthy remembered to ink his oath. That's worth something.