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Southold searching for new town attorney; Board reappoints comptroller

Southold’s annual organizational meeting went smoothly last Tuesday, although a few positions remained empty.

The town has yet to appoint a new town attorney following the departure of Bill Duffy with the new year. A resolution noted the new attorney was “to be determined.” Mr. Duffy left Southold government to counsel the Suffolk County legislature. 

Last month, Supervisor Scott Russell said a vote on hiring a new attorney would have to wait until after the organizational meeting and pointed out that there are other staff in the attorney’s office. John Burke is currently serving as deputy town attorney and Damon Hagan is assistant town attorney.

“I believe we’ll be in good shape until we fill the position,” Mr. Russell said at the time.

The town did not name anyone for the now-empty government liaison position either, formerly filled by new Town Clerk Denis Noncarrow. Mr. Noncarrow said that interested applicants may email resumes to the Town Clerk’s office and the town plans to start advertising for the spot. In the meantime, he’s continued to monitor ongoing projects from the office. 

Town comptroller Kristie Hansen-Hightower was also reappointed to her position, despite facing a lawsuit from the City of Long Beach alleging she has refused to repay more than $28,000 in overpayment for unused sick and personal leave accruals. 

Mr. Russell said the town is aware of the suit but “it’s an issue between [Ms. Hansen-Hightower] and the municipality she used to work for.”

“I can’t speak to the facts of the case, I don’t know enough. That’s something they’re going to work out. Ultimately, we judge appointing her based on the commitment and work product she gives the town,” he said. “Whatever issue she has is between her and another municipality. I can’t let that bleed into Southold Town.”

He added that the appointments are basically “an endorsement of” how people are doing at their jobs. “People would generally sit in those positions,” he said.

“It would be difficult to remove someone without cause, without demonstrating that they’re not doing their job well,” added Mr. Russell. “In Kristie’s case, she’s doing her job. She’s exemplary in that position.” 

Ms. Hansen-Hightower declined to comment.