02/15/11 1:19pm
02/15/2011 1:19 PM

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter receives a salary of more than $115,000; family medical, dental and optical benefits worth about $18,000; annual state pension contribution of about $10,000; deferred compensation of about $7,000; and a town car. Riverhead taxpayers pay for a full-time supervisor.

After his election, Mr. Walter announced he would continue to practice law at his Wading River law office while continuing to accept full-time compensation.
Mr. Walter finds this arrangement acceptable despite the fact that his budget laid off more than a dozen town employees and our town is in 2011 enduring the highest tax increase of any Long Island town. The question of greed I leave to your contemplation, but not before pointing out that Mr. Walter’s predecessor, Phil Cardinale, worked full-time for the town and returned to the town nearly $20,000 of his salary.

While Mr. Walter may be pleased by his post-election announcement that he is continuing law work in Wading River, many Riverhead residents may not be — especially after a review of Mr. Walter’s Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflict Statement for 2010.

Asked to list the names of clients “who have applications currently pending before any of the elected or appointed Boards or Committees within the Town of Riverhead, or who have had applications pending within the last twelve months,” Supervisor Walter answered: “This information for clients is covered by attorney/client privilege.”

Five months later, on June 23, 2010, Mr. Walter acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Town Ethics Board advising that the above answer was “not complete and needs to be amended.” Supervisor Walter then submitted what he termed “information which should satisfy its completion.” He listed 15 appearances he has made before the Town Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Justice Court, Conservation Advisory Committee, Board of Assessors and Town Attorney on behalf of clients during his supervisor term.

These 15 appearances by him were on behalf of clients whose names were redacted, or blacked out, from the 2010 Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflicts Statement document delivered in response to my recent Freedom of Information Law request.

When a town supervisor practices law a dangerous potential for conflict of interest results. To avoid this conflict, lawyers who previously served as supervisor did not simultaneously practice law.

Mr. Walter put his own personal interest over the public interest when he announced after his election that he will continue to practice law. He adds insult to injury by refusing to disclose the identity of his clients. By hiding from the public the identity of the clients he represented before Riverhead town boards and committees, Mr. Walter spits in the face of the law and good public policy.

As Riverhead residents we are left with these questions: Considering the compensation paid, aren’t we entitled to a full-time supervisor? Shouldn’t Mr. Walter have stated prior to his election his intention to continue his law practice? What possible value does Mr. Walter’s Conflict and Financial Disclosure Statement have if critical information is kept secret and hidden from the public?

When Mr. Walter proposes to change the town’s master plan or zoning laws, how can we know if it is for the benefit of his paying clients or for the benefit of town residents? How can Mr. Walter simultaneously serve two masters?

Mr. Villella is a former Riverhead supervisor and chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee.

12/30/10 1:11pm
12/30/2010 1:11 PM

Former Town Supervisor Bob Kozakiewicz is expected to officially be named Riverhead town attorney Tuesday at an annual salary of $106,500, which is slightly less than the current town attorney makes.

The board also may appoint another attorney, William Duffy, to a deputy attorney post at a salary of about $88,000, officials said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

Mr. Kozakiewicz, who had been town attorney from 1996 to 1997, would replace Dawn Thomas,  the town attorney since 2000. Her 2010 salary was $109,474. She is stepping down to take a job as a law clerk for State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Gazzillo

Mr. Kozakiewicz was town supervisor for two terms, from 2000 to 2003, and was on the board that hired Ms. Thomas.

In 2010, Ms. Kozakiewicz and James Saladino, who also is the head of the town Conservative Party, were hired as part-time town attorneys at $44,000 apiece per year, to replace a full-time attorney who had left, and was making $100,483.  Mr. Saladino is also stepping down from his town position this week.

At the time of their hiring, some had questioned why the town covered 75 percent of the health insurance costs for part-time attorneys. Supervisor Sean Walter said the town was paying less for the two part-timers, each working 20 hour weeks, than for a full-time attorney working 35 hours a week.

Under the pending employment agreement slated to be voted on next Tuesday, Mr. Kozakiewicz would be a full-time employee awith 100 percent of his health insurance paid by the town.

11/09/10 7:12pm
11/09/2010 7:12 PM

Riverhead Town’s revenue is on pace to fall about $900,000 short of projections in this year’s budget by the end of the year, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar.
His estimate is based on revenue the town had actually received through Nov. 5, 2010.
But $800,000 of that shortfall comes from two expected revenues that didn’t even begin to materialize in 2009. One was the sale of the East Lawn building on East Main Street for $450,000. The other was an anticipated settlement for $350,000 in a lawsuit involving alleged illegal excavation on Route 58.
“Other than the $800,000 that we knew wasn’t coming in, our revenues were right on target,” Mr. Rothaar said at last Thursday’s work session.
Minus the $800,000, the revenue was $94,878 short of projections.
The $894,878 total shortfall also assumes that $2.6 million in surpluses will be applied to decrease taxes in 2011. A year ago, the previous Town Board applied $4.7 million from the surplus, or fund balance, to lower taxes after it appeared that the budget would otherwise produce a huge tax rate increase.
One item that Town Board members questioned last week was the projected revenue from Planning Board fees. The 2010 budget estimates $100,000 in fees this year, but through Nov. 5, only $18,411 had been received. Mr. Rothaar is projecting $150,000 by year’s end.
“Planning has a couple of site plans that are expected to be completed,” he said, adding that his projection was based on information from planning department head Rick Hanley.
One area where revenue is expected to be higher than projected is in rental income from wireless phone companies, and the Town Board this year decided to rent space on three town sites for cell towers. The revenue anticipated in the 2010 budget was $100,000, but Mr. Rothaar said $149,500 has been received already and $254,000 more is expected by year’s end.
The Town Board has until Nov. 20 to adopt a final budget and has yet to decide what to do about six full-time and seven part-time positions proposed for elimination in Supervisor Sean Walter’s budget. Thus far in budget discussions, for the most part, councilmembers Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy have argued for restoring positions while councilmembers George Gabrielsen and Jodi Giglio have called for further cuts. Three votes are needed to make changes to the supervisor’s budget, which calls for a 4.3 percent town tax rate increase and a spending decrease.
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