Councilman: Town Board expects full report on accounting probe

04/12/2011 11:21 AM |

An investigation into the possibility that Riverhead Town equipment was used for private business may expand beyond one individual as it progresses, according to Councilman George Gabrielsen.

Last week officials met with the town’s accounting chief, Bill Rothaar, at his lawyer’s office in Rocky Point.

The investigation focuses on whether Mr. Rothaar or anyone else used town equipment to conduct private business from the accounting department’s offices on Pulaski Street in Riverhead, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“It appears it may widen,” Mr. Gabrielsen said of the probe, which is now being handled by outside labor counsel instead of the town’s own attorneys.

“I’m really just concerned about the taxpayer,” he said, explaining his outspokenness on an issue that Supervisor Sean Walter has repeatedly referred to as simply a “personnel manner” while declining to offer details.

Mr. Rothaar, whose town salary is $123,186.11 this year, served as treasurer of candidate Chris Cox’s campaign for the Republican congressional nomination in 2010.

Mr. Gabrielsen gave no indication that the allegations have anything to do with campaign work having been performed at town offices.

Asked whether the district attorney should be involved in the ongoing probe, which some have suggested, Mr. Gabrielsen said he is not “recommending it. But I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Mr. Gabrielsen said he was especially upset last Tuesday after learning that the meeting with Mr. Rothhaar had been held outside Town Hall to accommodate Mr. Rothaar’s lawyer. Mr. Gabrielsen said he had understood the meeting to have been a “Weingarten hearing,” an official procedure under state law in which a municipal worker responds to suspicions of wrongdoing. It should have been conducted at a town facility, not the employee’s lawyer’s office, he said.

The councilman said that after he had “raised a stink about it” Tuesday, oversight of the investigation was transferred to outside labor counsel, identified by Mr. Walter as attorney Richard Zuckerman of Melville, rather than the town attorney who had been handling the probe.

“We asked [Mr. Rothaar] to come in Monday,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “The attorney couldn’t make it, which I can understand, but then the next thing I hear is [the town attorney and deputy supervisor] are meeting out in Brookhaven, in Rocky Point. Are you kidding me? Then it was determined by others that, basically, it was going to be handled by outside counsel.”

He said the Town Board is expecting a full report from Mr. Zuckerman.

Mr. Rothaar, a certified public accountant, is the town’s financial director. He operates an accounting and financial services business from his Miller Place home and is a paid member of the Brookhaven Town Accessory Apartment Review Board, according to financial disclosure statements filed with the town and previously acquired by the News-Review.

Mr. Rothaar was treasurer of the Roslyn School District when three top administrators and others were indicted and later convicted in an $11 million embezzlement scandal that ran from 2005 to 2006. He was never criminally charged. A state audit conducted in the scandal’s aftermath found that, “although the District appointed a Treasurer, William Rothaar, in our opinion, he did not provide adequate oversight or take responsibility for the duties he was required to perform.”

Mr. Rothaar then worked in the Town of Brookhaven’s finance department before a change in administration forced him out. He came to Riverhead as interim finance director in April 2006, following the disability retirement of Jack Hansen. Mr. Rothaar was hired the following April as the department head.

He could not be reached for comment this week.

“These are personnel issues,” Mr. Walter told the News-Review when asked about the probe last week.

Matt Hattorf, who heads the town’s Civil Service Employees Union, said Mr. Rothaar had a right to a hearing under civil service law. But because he’s a department head and not a union member, it made sense that Mr. Rothaar would hire a lawyer to accompany him to the hearing. “They probably have to secure their own lawyer, so maybe it’s at their offices” instead of in Town Hall.

Mr. Hattorf said no CSEA members from the accounting department have been asked to appear in connection with the investigation.

“I’ve heard second- and third-hand but I haven’t seen anything concrete” as far as allegations go, he said. “I’ve inquired and I get told that it’s an ongoing investigation. They haven’t called any of my members in, as of yet. And if they do, we’ll do what we’ve got to do.

“The town has a right to conduct an investigation; you can’t stop them from doing that,” Mr. Hattorf said.

Mr. Hattorf said he didn’t think the town would find that Mr. Rothaar had committed any serious breaches of proper conduct.

“Bill Rothaar’s not stupid,” he said. “My personal opinion is I don’t think he’s going to put himself in that type of position where he could be brought up on charges. Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t see him jeopardizing his career.”

During a Town Board work session Thursday, Mr. Walter said there should be better policies “that guide us in some of these personnel issues,” such as employee behavior as well as staffers and elected officials speaking to the press on internal matters.

He suggested that Town Board members come to today’s April 14 work session with some ideas.

“I want to know if there’s procedures that we need, because we have a computer policy but we don’t have a fax policy and we don’t have a copy machine policy,” Mr. Walter said.

“So there’s no law on the books that says you can’t use municipal property for your own personal business?” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked.

“I don’t even want to go there,” he responded. “Let’s just deal with the policy.”

Mr. Gabrielsen later told the News-Review that he had pulled a resolution that would have put a related policy on the books in 2000.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here,” he said.

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Roslyn Audit



18 Comment

  • Sadly, our worst fears about Crookhaven East may materialize thanks to what is clear to be complete neglect by Town’s Chief Financial Officer, Sean Walter, of what seems to be widening pattern of abuse of public resources.

    Sean Walter and his cronies from the Republican friends and family network can no longer be trusted and the Supervisor should resign immediately.

    It is the responsibility of the remaining Town Board members to assure that justice be served by seeking the immediate intervention of District Attorney Spota.

  • The taxpayers of this town have a right to know what is going on here.

  • Of course Mr. Rothaar didn’t provide adequate oversight at Roslyn, since he was doing the same thing there as he does for Riverhead town: doing his own private practice instead of what he was hired to do!!

  • Gang, this isn’t exactly Watergate–Bill Rothaar should have never been hired by Phil Cardinale and he should have never been kept by Sean Walter. There was a hearing held at Rothaar’s attorney’s office–WOW!!–does it really matter where the venue is? Do you get different testimony in Rocky Point than Riverhead? That issue is silly.

    Councilman Gabrielsen is really coming off like a schmuck in all of this, he believes he has this big smoking gun and so far, no evidence of anything of importance. What does the Councilman feel should happen if an employee used a town telephone for a personal call? Fire them? What’s the point?

    I’d love to see the Councilman’s phone log [who has a local business/farm] , and that of Councilwoman Giglio [who still runs an “expiditing business”]. Why not release the Council/Supervisor’s phone logs and for that matter EVERY town employee? Do we fire people because their kid called from school? Where does it end?

    This is election year crappola, plain and simple.

    Oh, and by the way, isn’t it amazing Ron Harari weighs in to tell the Town board/Supervisor to resign? He has said the same thing about every Supervisor since Koz. With Mr. Harari everything is about investigations, conspiracies, the DA and friends and family. I for one am tired of it.

    Town Board, move on and do good for Riverhead.

  • Do you really think this is about phone calls?? Don’t you read the news? The town audits were 3 years behind, coincidentally since Mr. Rothaar took the job. People lost their jobs due to the alleged poor town finances, based on Mr. Rothaar’s incompetence and oversight. More people have been hired at a huge expense to get this work done, and it looks like he was doing his own personal accounting this whole time instead?? And nothing should be done?? What’s sad is that probably nothing will be done if Sean has his way, and us taxpayers keep getting the shaft. Sounds like Mr. Gabrielsen has a rare streak of morality to me!! How is this election year politics, when they are all Republicans??

  • Do you really think this is about phone calls?? Don’t you read the news? The town audits were 3 years behind, coincidentally since Mr. Rothaar took the job. People lost their jobs due to the alleged poor town finances, based on Mr. Rothaar’s incompetence and oversight. More people have been hired at a huge expense to get this work done, and it looks like he was doing his own personal accounting this whole time instead?? And nothing should be done?? What’s sad is that probably nothing will be done if Sean has his way, and us taxpayers keep getting the shaft. Sounds like Mr. Gabrielsen has a rare streak of morality to me!! How is this election year politics, when they are all Republicans??

  • Perhaps RonHarireEsq should get a meaningful job. He has been a thorn in the side of every Riverhead supervisor since he bought a home in Riverhead Town. If you can get WRIV in your location, listen to him when he calls that radio station and notice how many times the DJ hangs up on him. uhg uhg uhg

  • Unbelievable, you are right. This isn’t about someone using a Town phone to call their kid’s school nurse, or about the random personal fax. It is about someone profiting in their own personal business while on Town time. And the fact that that person is not getting his work done at great expense to the taxpayer is wrong and probably violates some kind of ethical code. You are talking about the Financial Administrator. At the very least, what kind of message is he sending to the rest of the Town’s employees? The fact the the Supervisor’s stance is that this is only about the misuse of Town equipment just goes to show you that all of Rothaar’s misdoings are going to be swept under the rug and summed up as just a trivial violation when it really speaks to what another blogger said somewhere: It is not about what Rothaar can do for the Town of Riverhead, it is what Riverhead can do for Rothaar. Rothaar, consider this your get out of jail free card. Oh wait a minute, that was used up in Roslyn…….Kudos to Gabreilsen for recognizing this for what it is and speaking up. Lean government does not include room for people ripping off the Town.

  • Does anyone also consider the town’s liability for personal business done using town property, by a town employee, during town working hours??? If a client gets audited and blames Mr. Rothaar, for instance, don’t think the town wouldn’t be at risk should this be true. A smart attorney would be all over that one!!

  • You should of added Riverhead…..

  • And Mattituck!

  • RIVERHEAD CSD 1 Superintendent of Schools 212,500 51,299 24,830
    2 Elementary Principal 164,434 45,816 5,510
    2 Associate Principal 154,238 44,535 5,505
    2 Associate Principal 142,807 43,100 5,246
    2 Assistant Principal 135,653 42,201 5,083
    2 Assistant Principal 146,511 43,565 5,330
    2 Assistant Principal 124,442 40,793 4,828
    2 Assistant Principal 131,583 27,882 4,991
    2 Assistant Principal 131,583 41,690 4,991
    2 Director 165,184 45,910 6,392
    2 Director 145,557 43,445 5,308
    2 Assistant Superintendent-Personnel 173,041 47,147 6,433
    2 Director 164,434 45,816 5,737
    2 Director 138,522 42,561 5,148
    2 Director 131,010 27,810 4,978
    2 Assistant Director 147,261 31,668 4,775
    2 Assistant Director 122,082 31,668 4,775
    2 Facilities Director 126,065 46,537 5,865
    2 Assistant Superintendent-Curriculum 162,000 45,760 7,682
    2 Hs Principal 167,316 46,178 5,803
    2 Ms Principal 169,795 37,661 5,011
    2 Elementary Principal 152,248 44,285 5,799
    2 Elementary Principal 156,206 44,782 5,095
    2 Elementary Principal 164,434 45,816 5,509
    2 Elementary Principal 164,434 45,816 5,194

  • riverhead added


  • i have no issue with any “educators” salaries. Principals, teachers, guidance, etc. Anybody that is teaching, or involved with the kids etc.

    The “business” of running the district and comig up with these hostage budgets and contingincies with mandates, and locked in contracts (not for teachers but for NON-educational roles) is just TOO fat and needs to go on a serious diet!

    We have too many jobs in too small a district with too few kids, its bad economy of scale and ROI?

    In MP over 1% of the entire budget going to “overhead” salaries alone and central office for multiple superintendents (deputies, asst, regular, classic and then admins and data loggers and secretaries) and for under 5,000 kids?

    BTW, wish i knew what a fringe benifit or pension was? never had one, must be nice? My self funded 401k dropped over 30% these last few years and my house equity is down to almost zero (i putdown over 25% in 2004)……… raise in the last 3 years in the global for profit business world.

    ….and all these folks are getting mandatory not negotiable contracted raise? with fringe and pension and cost of living……..

    “Hamlet” of Miller Place. does have an Alice in financial Wonderland sound to it.

  • On the link provided… chk it out luv

  • And the school board, teachers, and administrators don’t have a CLUE why we are so angry. ALL are getting raises in an economy where the taxpayers are taking pay cuts, losing their jobs, and their homes. I have just only a slightly larger problem with the administrator raises as the teacher raises. These raises on are the backs of those who can’t afford to pay what they currently are, much less MORE!

  • Thomas, YOU made up the difference in their pensions. No one made up the loss you took in yours. This has got to stop. The locked in contracts for ALL must stop!