Election 2011: Fill or abolish these two town positions?

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10/28/2011 5:00 PM |
Southold Town

Darline Duffy

There’s three people running in the town receiver and assessor elections, and if the Democrats had their way the number would be zero.

Republican assessor Darline Duffy, who has been in office 21 years, is running unopposed for a sixth full four-year term.

For tax receiver, incumbent Republican George Sullivan is seeking his fourth full term. His challenger, former Democratic councilman Bill Edwards, is running to eliminate the job, not fill it.

In both races, the Democrats say the town could realize significant savings by abolishing two elected positions that do not create policy and transferring those duties to the town clerk.

This is not the first time a Democratic candidate has run for an office in an effort to abolish it.

Two years ago former Democratic councilman Dan Ross ran unsuccessfully for Fishers Island justice. His candidacy gave him standing in his legal fight to strip the judgeship of its additional authority as a voting member of the Town Board. His battle reached the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but those judges upheld two lower court rulings that found the island’s unique geography warrants the office’s dual responsibilities. With the island’s judge, Southold is Long Island’s only six-member Town Board.

Southold Town

Bill Edwards

Mr. Edwards, who is not actively campaigning, says that by eliminating what he calls “an obsolete position left over from colonial times,” the town could save more than $500,000 over a 10-year period. That’s based on the tax receiver’s $34,674 salary plus benefits and estimated annual raises of 4 percent.

He says if elected he’ll deliver a plan to the Town Board within 90 days for how to “get rid of the position Southold taxpayers don’t need.”

Speaking on behalf of Mr. Edwards during a recent Mattituck Chamber of Commerce meet the candidates night, Democratic supervisor candidate Bob Meguin praised Mr. Sullivan, a highly decorated Marine who won the Purple Heart in Vietnam, for his public service.

“It’s not personal,” said Mr. Meguin, but tough economic times demand spending reductions.

A Harvard graduate, Mr. Edwards served one term on the Town Board but lost that seat in 2007. This is his second run for tax receiver.

He was not the party’s first choice for the job this year. During their spring convention Democrats nominated Kerrie Amerson of Southold, who withdrew in July.

Southold Town

George Sullivan

Mr. Sullivan served as tax receiver from 1980 to 1986 and returned to the office after the death of tax receiver Marilyn Quintana in 2002. A certified public accountant, he received an MBA from New York University.

He argues that his opponent’s basic premise is flawed.

“The work has to be done by someone,” he said. “There’s no great savings there.”

Ms. Duffy, a graduate of Southold High School and Cornell University, makes the same argument.

While several towns, including Southampton, operate with a single assessor “they have huge staffs,” she said. “Southold has three assessors and 2.5 staffers,” she said.

“And if you have a problem, who would you rather deal with — an appointee or an elected official?” she said. “Anyone who’s dealt with the state Department of Environmental Conservation knows the answer to that.”

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