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Failed $24 Million Bond Issue Draws Fire From Town Board Members

Councilman Gene Cook 'appalled' by actions of majority members; Dems claim political grandstanding.

A  resolution to refinance $24 million in municipal bonds failed Tuesday, drawing sharp criticism from members of the Democratic majority toward minority party members of the board who requested more time for review.

Sponsored by , the resolution called for refinancing of bonds issued from 2002-05 at lower interest rates.

The move, recommended by New York Municipal Advisors Corporation, was projected to save taxpayers $100,000 a year for the remainder of the life of the bonds, or more than $700,000 overall, according to A.J. Carter, the town information officer.

At a daytime meeting, council members Mark Mayoka and Gene Cook abstained on the resolution, which by law required four votes to be approved. As a result, the resolution did not pass.

In a joint press release Tuesday, Democratic council members Mark Cuthbertson, Susan Berland and Petrone, slammed what they termed was the "Republican minority" for failure to vote on the issue at Town Hall.

Cook, a registered Independent, and Mayoka, a Republican, said they need more time to look over the validity of the resolution and possibly research ways to save more more money for taxpayers before approving it.

"I felt like we were ambushed in just asking for more time," said Cook. "I am appalled with them and the way they have reacted to this. On a $24 million refinancing issue, they are not giving us the information."

Democrats warned that the actions of Cook and Mayoka sent a message that could have serious repercussions for town finances projecting years into the future, according to the release.

"The Town Board minority has jeopardized the Town’s financial health by failing to vote on a resolution that would save residents $700,000 by refinancing the Town’s debt," said Petrone, in the release.

Councilwoman Berland, who last month requested more time on a resolution to hire a Mayoka nominee for director of maritime services in Huntington, criticized her colleagues for requesting extra review.

“I view my job as 24-seven, and I know that I have to spend the weekend before each board meeting studying agendas and resolutions and preparing for the meeting," Berland said. "Councilmen Mayoka and Cook had plenty of time to review the re-bonding resolution and to ask questions in advance. If any of us have questions, it is our responsibility to seek answers before the meeting."

Calling it a "sad day" for Huntington residents, Cuthbertson said waiting until the Town Board meeting to raise questions shows that Cook and Mayoka really didn’t want the answers. 

“Their blatantly political grandstanding conveniently ignores the fact that the information they said they needed before they voted was actually contained in a resolution they voted for at the first Town Board meeting this year," said Cuthbertson.

Cook told Patch "the three majority members went at it like we were crucifying somebody."

Lst month, Cook reluctantly voted in favor of a Petrone-sponsored $6.1 million bond item after the supervisor agreed to give council members more review time on future resolutions.

"I said as long as this doen't happen again and I have time to review it I have no problem with it," said Cook. 

Petrone went against his word this week, according to Cook.

"[Petrone] puts this stuff out on a Friday at 5 o'clock again. I looked at those numbers and my head was spinning," said Cook, needing more time.

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Cook said he questioned comments made Tuesday by acting comptroller Andrew Persich, who stated that the some of the savings would be put back in the town's operating fund.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, I don't believe they are allowed to do that,'" Cook said. "It's supposed to pay down the debt from what I understand from the law."

Cook said he will request clarification from the state attorney general's office and Persich regarding the legality of Petrone's resolution.

An amendment to Petrone's original re-bonding resolution is being drawn up by Mayoka, who like Cook, said he hopes the item is placed on the May 22 Town Board meeting agenda.

“I am disappointed in the comments made by my Democrat colleagues but look forward to working with them and keeping focused on the task at hand of saving money for all the residents of Huntington,” said Mayoka Wednesday.

Mayoka, a certified public accountant, said his amended plan will save more money than the original resolution by reducing the proposed issuance of bonding from $24 million to match closer with the debt proposed to be retired of $23.36 million.

Additionally, Mayoka's amendment calls for a strategic financial plan to maximize savings to the town through a review and reallocation of proposed bond refunding maturities. It would allocate savings to benefit the taxpayers through reduced issuance of debt or reduced spending in each respective year, according to Mayoka.

Free 2B Me May 11, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Quality discussion and diverse opinions are a good thing. Show boating is another. Mayorka and Cook may not support Petrone's politics, but they need to be respectful to the elected official and the community. An appropriate heads-up prior to the vote, is the appropriate step.

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