Personnel Department Now Down to One

    The East Hampton Town Board split along party lines last Thursday in a vote on reorganizing the Human Resources Department. As reported last week, the measure, approved by the Republican majority, 3 to 2, abolishes the position of Pat Breen, the town personnel officer, who served as the department head. The board also moved two other staffers to different departments, one to the town clerk’s office and the other to the tax receiver’s office, leaving just one in human resources.
    The change assigns the former personnel assistant in the department to a payroll unit under Len Bernard, the town budget officer. Any other functions formerly performed by the Human Resources Department will now be handled by the budget office or supervisor’s office.
    The resolution offered by Mr. Wilkinson notes that the town’s full-time work force has decreased from more than 400 positions in the 2008 budget to 311 as of the beginning of last month. Savings from the reorganization of the Human Resources function, it says, are projected to be approximately $170,000 a year.
    The measure was also described as “an effort to create operating and financial efficiencies.” Mr. Wilkinson noted that the town’s financial operations are being monitored by the state comptroller “because of past administration misdeeds.” He was referring to the prior, Democratic administration. Under the terms of a state law allowing East Hampton to issue bonds to cover an accumulated budget deficit, the comptroller is to review all budgets during the life of the bonds. “We lost a lot of our ability to have the looseness you’re requesting,” he told Democratic Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who voted against the changes.
    In explaining her no vote, Ms. Overby noted that the budget officer is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the supervisor. “There are just no checks,” she said. “From purchasing to auditing to [information technology] and grants — [all] are reporting directly to the budget officer, who is reporting directly to you,” she told Mr. Wilkinson. Town  Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, the other Democrat on the board, also voted no.    
    “Employees need to have a place where they feel safe,” Ms. Overby said. Under the reorganization, they would have to bring their issues or complaints to Mr. Bernard, she said. “They deserve to have someone in their court, that watches their back.”
    The reorganization also creates a new audit and accounting unit, to be headed by Charlene Kagel, the chief auditor, and assigns a grants analyst under her supervision.