Town probes possible misdeeds in its accounting offices

04/04/2011 5:02 PM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead's accounting offices at "Town Hall West" on Pulaski Street.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead's accounting offices at "Town Hall West" on Pulaski Street.

Riverhead Town attorneys are investigating possible misuse of computers and other equipment within the town’s accounting department offices on Pulaski Street, officials confirmed Monday.

Sources told the News-Review the probe concerns a town worker possibly using town equipment to run a private business, although no individuals were named to a News-Review reporter.

“The town is currently conducting an investigation in our accounting department into the possible misuses of town property,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said in a prepared statement issued in response to questions about the rumored probe.

“At this time I cannot release any details since this is an active investigation into a personnel matter, ” he said.

When later pushed by phone to clarify what he meant by “town property,” he pointed specifically to the town’s accounting offices on Pulaski Street.

“Misuse of everything in there, equipment, and use of the facility on town time,” he said.

“These are personnel issues,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said when asked of the investigation Monday.

Without giving specifics, he said Riverhead Town never had a policy regarding the use of town computers until February, when it was added to the Civil Service Employees Association contract. With no such a policy on the books before that, he said, it’s hard to say if action can be taken as a result of the probe.

Councilman Jim Wooten said he only heard “bits and pieces” regarding the use of town equipment for a private business, but said also that is just a preliminary investigation in its “infant stages.”

“I don’t think much is going of come of it,” Mr. Wooten said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she was told there would be a Weingarten hearing — which is required by state law when potentially enacting penalties against a civil servant — involving an accounting department employee.

She said that normally, only a representative from the town attorney’s office and the town personnel department represent the town in such hearings, and they make a recommendation to the Town Board.

Town Board members are not invited to the hearings, she said. “I have a big problem with that,” Ms. Giglio said. “We’re never given any of the facts. In the private sector, if one of my employees does something wrong, I want to talk to him about it.”

The Town Board authorized salaries for 12 finance employees in 2011.

Annual pay ranges from about $40,000 for an account clerk to $123,ooo for the department head.

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See complete coverage in the April 7 edition of the News-Review.



25 Comment

  • Only in Riverhead could the treasurer of the scandal plagued Roslyn School District become Sandmine Sean’s Go To Guy in Finance.

    Using public resources for a private business is a crime. The matter should be referred to the District Attorney immediately–not the friends and family network for a cover-up.

  • Shoot if it’s someone they like it will be put under the table.If it is someone that they dislike or they can blame past administrations …we will hear all about can count on that….

  • Any and all comments that pertain to the goings on at town hall seem to show the negativity of those who comment. Does anyone think that maybe, just maybe, the misuse of computers and other equipment was happening for several years and did not just start since Walter was elected? Those who have negative views of the current administration will not accept that possibility, but it would be nice to be positive once in a while

  • Sure it’s possible..after all Walter said they just put in the contract some wording.
    However anyone with a Brain would know that you don’t use office stuff for personal use.
    If it’s the person I’m thinking of ..just to let you know I was against him regardless of who put him in…However the new Administration had an opportunity to make the change and didn’t…nobody else to blame but themselves…….

  • Walter is mistaken. All Town employees are given a blue book with town policies in it when they are hired. My book has a computer use policy in it. Although I have not seen it yet, whatever was added to the CSEA contract that he is talking about can only be an updated policy. Since the IT department is supervised by people in the accounting office, whoever is being investigated should have known about the old policy’s existence.Anyway, it is only common sense that an employee is expected to be doing only Town work on Town time. I don’t think you need a policy for that.

  • There is a reason all comments about this administration are all negative!! Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, it IS the current administration to blame? Though I’m sure in this case it has been going on for awhile now………

  • “Going to law is losing a cow for the sake of a cat. ” Chinese proverb

    While a cover-up would aggravate the wrong. An “immediate” referral to a criminal prosecutor is not appropriate. The Town Attorney should investigate and report to the Town Board.

    #1 The Town Board should determine the best way to prevent continuing and future violations.
    #2 The Town Board should consider if punishment would serve the public interest.
    #3 The Town Board should report to the public.

    #4 And this goes for all towns not just Riverhead. Town Boards have ongoing responsibility to maintain awareness of all town government operations, promote public service and prevent government from serving private interests. These long term goals will require new legislative initiatives, changes in policies, procedures, and practices. Technology has transformed our means of communication and our local government (and most local businesses) have not yet recognized let alone responded to the new mediums.

  • Law over sees Policy and there is a law that prohibits use of Governmental resources for personal use.So I feel that the Town should allow Spota to come in and investigate.. ….

  • If the Town Board finds evidence of crimes, and the public interest can best be protected by litigation, then I agree, call in DA Spota.

    But, if I hired someone and they stole from me, I want the option to try to settle accounts without calling in police.

    You are looking at property rights from the perspective of public law in the framework of the state. You may want to consider a wider view of property as a natural habitat of private rights and duties.

  • The apparent willingness of the moonlighting Supervisor (who himself runs a side law practice) and other members of the Town Board to permit what may be serious misconduct to continue under their noses only heightens the need for thorough housecleaning in Riverhead Town Hall which I have called for for years and pledge to initiate as Supervisor.

    Sean Walter is himself a product of Riverhead’s Town Hall friends and family network and is part of the problem. It is outrageous for Walter, as the Town’s Chief Financial Officer, to dismiss the theft of resources as merely a “personnel matter.” And, quite frankly, other council members that have been around for years seem to lack the intellectual ability to appreciate the serious consequences of such misconduct–particularly in a department where the utmost integrity is required–let alone deal with these consequences.

    I strongly urge both Sean Walter and Bill Rothaar to resign immediately without prejudice to any other appropriate action required.

  • It is unfortunate when a personal matter becomes a public curiosity …

  • Sad but true.

  • Haven’t you heard? Nothing is personal, anymore.

  • I would hope that as its duty and as a public service (considering this IS an election year) the Suffolk Times investigates to the fullest legal limit WHAT HAPPENED as it might effect the electoral process or the public’s right to know about its candidates.

  • Leave the guy alone, it’s personal.

  • to bad you cannot have a private life when your a politician. Perhaps that is why we have a hard time trying to get dedicated people to run for public office. Supervisoe Russell has served the community for at least 15 years how about we give him some private time and give him some space. All those is glass houses please raise thier hands

  • Aint that the truth!!!! You forgot to mention that those Southold Police who have BEEN FOUND GUILTY of doing this (violating federally mandated civil rights) have ZERO REPERCUSSIONS. And the taxpayer gets to shell out thousands to protect the Southold Town Police’s apparent right to violate laws. And I thought I was the only one (just kidding, everyone I know has some story about someone they know having their rights violated by the SHold gestapo….it’s sckening). Leave the man alone, at least one person in Southold deserves to have their rights protected, and if it’s gonna be just one man, he deserves to be the one!!!

  • For those who don’t know: Public employees and elected officials are held to a higher standard of public and private behavior (by statute, by regulation, by employee codes of conduct) because they are often responsible for public resources and public property, and / or hold fiduciary duties involving taxpayer funds.

    That is why there should be little expectation of privacy nor any offered either in good nature or “generosity.” It is not yours to give, either legally or in common sense.

    Arrest records, police reports and personal incidents are all open to scrutiny, in the public interest. So, despite whether or not we want to “leave the guy alone,” we do not have that option, as responsible citizens, or, if one works for the Suffolk Times, as responsible journalists.

    Do not run for office, hold public office, or be a public employee if you want or expect privacy. That is the way it works. Sorry. Go be self-employed or work for a private company that looks the other way or doesn’t care about its shareholders or profits or reputation.

  • Why does everyone assume Mr. Russell was the antagonist in this situation? Also, Mr. Russell has served this community with distinction. Since you don’t know what he is dealing with personally try being a little less critical.

  • I have carefully read the posts below and not one person has assumed that Mr. Russell was the “antagonist” nor has anyone impugned his record.

    Other than desire the appropriate knowledge, it seems the biggest concern is the non-professionalism of some members of the Southold police department.

  • I agree, while I do believe those in public office need to be held to a higher standard, some people are judging him “guilty” without a trial.

  • Supervisor Scott Russell is also a Southold Town Police Commissioner.

  • Since the only people who were around during the incident were Scott and his family, let’s not presume anything. In our world today, if someone makes an accusation, too often we take it for truth. Usually, there are three sides to every argument. And the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Let’s all stop silently hoping that another family will be destroyed by speculation, rumor, and conjecture. I hope Scott and his family can work out whatever issues need to be worked out.