Editorial: Strike while the iron’s hot on consolidating jobs

08/22/2013 8:00 AM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO  |  County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county's fiscal situation.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county’s fiscal situation.

Suffolk County’s plan to merge the elected comptroller and treasurer positions into one job with one staff is supposed to save more than $800,000 annually. Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone, now with the overwhelming support of the county Legislature, has been pushing the measure, saying it would eliminate duplicative jobs.

The consolidation proposal goes to voters countywide through a referendum on Election Day, when it will likely pass. (Who wouldn’t vote to trim county jobs?)

But current county Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who is running for re-election in November to a position that’s likely to be eliminated, has screamed foul. She calls this a cynical, purely political move meant only to allow Republican Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, expected to be appointed as interim chief financial officer, to sidestep his expiring term limits and be able to run for that new position in 2014. Ms. Carpenter, a Republican, has also argued that consolidating the positions would rob the county of necessary checks and balances when it comes to fiscal matters — although, last we looked, those checks and balances haven’t worked so well in recent years in Suffolk County, which faces massive budget deficits.

It’s entirely possible that revenge politics are involved, as Ms. Carpenter — Mr. Bellone’s Republican rival in the 2011 race for county executive — has alleged. But pundits could also speculate that Mr. Bellone is trying to prevent Mr. Sawicki — county government’s one elected Republican outside the Legislature — from challenging his re-election bid. Either way, so what? No matter the motivation, a good idea is a good idea. Keep in mind that Suffolk is the only county in the state that still has two fiscal positions; this consolidation should have been done years ago. If the politics are finally right for such a move, the opportunity should be taken.