Mattituck Park District replaces elected treasurer

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Park district commissioner Nicholas Deegan (left) and former district treasurer Steve Brautigam, were Democratic running mates for town office last fall.

Steve Brautigam is out and John Cushman is back in as treasurer for the Mattituck Park District — but only for the next two months.

During a special meeting Friday night, the district commissioners named Mr. Cushman, the town comptroller. Officials said the move came after the commissioners discovered that Mr. Brautigam, who in January began a three-year elected term as treasurer, failed to take the oath of office.

Two of the three commissioners voted for Mr. Cushman with Nicholas Deegan, commissioners’ chairman, abstaining.

Mr. Deegan and fellow commissioner Charles Zaloom said this week that Mr. Brautigam was technically no longer treasurer because he failed to take the oath of office by Jan. 31, though it is unclear why he didn’t.

Elected park district representatives are required to take the oath at the Southold town clerk’s office on their own time, said Mr. Deegan, but Mr. Brautigam was apparently never informed of that requirement.

“He thought it was the obligation of someone to tell him,” said Mr. Deegan. “It’s inexplicable in a sense, but it didn’t happen.”

Mr. Zaloom said Mr. Brautigam told the commissioners in February he was no longer interested in being treasurer, and had to be convinced to stay on through the end of March until a replacement was found.

Mr. Brautigam is a former Southampton Town comptroller who now serves as the village administrator for Ocean Beach on Fire Island. He ran for Town Trustee on the Democratic line in November, sharing the ballot with Mr. Deegan, who ran for a Town Board seat. Mr. Brautigam could not be reached for comment.

“I’m not certain he was actually happy doing the treasurer work,” Mr. Zaloom said Wednesday. “I don’t think it was the job he envisioned,”

Mr. Zaloom said the park district updated its bookkeeping system in January, a time-consuming process that may have given Mr. Brautigam the false impression that every month’s work was as time-consuming as the first month’s.

He said the board agreed to pay Mr. Brautigam an extra $200 above his roughly $600 monthly stipend to convince him to stay an extra month.

“He had no requirement to stay. He was free to go,” said Mr. Zaloom. “We said we’re sorry it didn’t work out, but we need you another six weeks to transition.”

Mr. Zaloom said Mr. Cushman, who had been the park district’s treasurer for nearly 20 years until he decided not to run again last year, also had to be convinced to take on the temporary assignment. The park district will likely appoint either an individual or an accounting firm to act as treasurer from June 1 until after this November’s election, though the commissioners are weighing whether the treasurer needs to be an elected position.

Because Mr. Cushman works full time as town comptroller for Southold Town, it took a lot to convince him to take on the extra work, Mr. Zaloom said.

“We were without an accountant and we had to act really quickly,” he said. “John’s doing it for $1,000 per month. We had to pay more to make it attractive for the short-term basis. He didn’t want to do it, but he’s the most experienced guy.”

“Steve’s very talented and experienced,” Mr. Zaloom added. “He left a good situation. There are no issues there.”

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