Suffolk Pols Debate Merging Treasurer, Comptroller

Suffolk merger referendum
Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, left, and County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, right.
Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, left, and County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, right.

Suffolk County lawmakers debated Tuesday a proposal to merge the county comptroller and treasurer’s offices in a plan the county executive said will eliminate seven jobs, saving more than $1 million annually.

Treasurer Angie Carpenter told the legislature that the estimated savings are “bogus” and several lawmakers questioned the plan, prompting County Executive Steve Bellone to tweak the proposal before a public hearing scheduled for next month.

“If all the same duties are there and the same work has to be done, how would that $1 million be saved?” Legis. Lynn Nowick (R-Smithtown) asked Carpenter.

“It’s a fabrication,” Carpenter replied, calling the proposed merger “an injustice.” “If you eliminate those seven jobs, you can’t eliminate that work that’s being done.”

Bellone announced last week his proposal to have voters decide in a November referendum whether to merge the treasurer’s office with that of Comptroller Joseph Sawicki. He estimated that the plan would save nearly $6 million over five years.

But some lawmakers, including Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), expressed concern Tuesday about the Bellone’s proposed appointment of an interim chief financial officer to head the merged office before a replacement could be elected in 2014.

Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Bellone’s spokeswoman, said the proposal has since been tweaked to have Sawicki lead the proposed merged office before his term limit at the end of 2014.

“If it is voted upon by the residents of Suffolk County to allow the merger of the two offices,” she said, “Sawicki…would hold two titles, comptroller and CFO.”

Lindsay called a special legislative meeting July 22 to hold a public hearing on the resolution that, if passed, would allow a referendum for the voters to decide if there should be “a unified county department of financial management and audit.”

The public hearing is required before the legislature votes on the resolution at its next meeting on July 30. Bellone is pushing for passage as quickly as possible to allow enough time for the resolution to appear on ballots in November.

Newsday has reported that Suffolk County GOP leadership called plan by Bellone, a Democrat, “payback” for Carpenter running against the county executive in 2011. Both Carpenter and Sawicki are Republicans, but only Carpenter is running for re-election.

Sawicki did not return a call for comment.