The East Hampton Town Budget and Finance Committee has subtly rebuked Supervisor Bill Wilkinson in a recommendation it made last month that no elected officials or town employees be on a proposed new town audit committee.
This came after a list of prospective members of such a committee was circulated that consisted of Mr. Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, the town’s budget officer, its in-house auditor, the secretary of the local Republican committee, and a town resident who has made sizable contributions to G.O.P. campaign funds. The budget and finance committee apparently had this obvious imbalance in mind when it offered its advice on how the town should proceed in establishing an audit group — and what its responsibilities might be.
While not rejecting the local Republican committee’s Carole Campolo, or Stanley Arkin, the big donor who is said to have a background in investment banking and money management, the budget and finance group suggested that the town board name at least one independent person who is an auditing expert, with employment experience in finance or accounting. The committee also offered to give the board a list of qualified and willing local residents and said that the supervisor, who serves as the town’s chief financial officer, had no business being in an oversight role of what is, in the end, his own performance.
The purpose, the budget and finance committee wrote, of the audit committee should be to encourage candid discussion of possible improvements to the town’s financial controls and to give the residents comfort that East Hampton’s management has operated in their best interests. To this end, they said that if the town board insisted on placing its own members on the new audit committee, there should be seats for each political party when the town board itself is split. Moreover, it said, an independent committee could field complaints from whistleblowers, something a group consisting of elected officials, their backers, and staff could not impartially do.
These are sound recommendations.