Bellone to Try Again Next Year on Treasurer-Comptroller Merger

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is regrouping after New York State’s highest court nixed his referendum this fall.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone plans to reintroduce legislation that would allow voters to decide in a referendum whether to merge the elected offices of the county treasurer and comptroller.

Bellone and his fellow Democrats that control the county legislature are announcing Thursday in Hauppauge that they will try again to get the referendum on the ballot next year after New York State’s highest court struck down a measure designed to have the public vote on it next month.

The state Court of Appeals blocked Bellone’s attempt to have the referendum on the ballots for Election Day on Nov. 5 after Angie Carpenter, the Republican county treasurer running for re-election who lost to Bellone for county exec in 2011, sued to block the proposal.

The court ruled that the legislature improperly changed the language of the referendum, which would have created a chief financial officer for the county starting next year, if voters passed the measure.

Bellone has said he would make term-limited Republican County Comptroller Steve Sawicki the interim CFO for the first year until elections could be held, which would allow Sawicki to run for the new office.

Carpenter has called the plan misguided and said it would eliminate a layer of checks and balances in local government. Bellone maintains that it would save more than $833,000, although critics have disputed that estimate.

Across the county line, Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, a Democrat running against Republican Comptroller George Maragos who unseated Weitzman four years ago, proposed Wednesday that, if returned to office, he would merge the comptroller’s office with the treasurer’s office, which is an appointed position in Nassau. Weitzman, too, said the merger would save an estimated $1 million.

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