Officials discuss future of finance office


Recorder News Staff

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane and Common Council members are working to figure out the next steps for the city's finance department.

The council and mayor met for a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday to discuss a possible second contract with certified personal accountant Darryl Purinton.

Purinton had previously spent 40 hours working in the finance department to go through the department operations and address discrepancies.

The contract before the council detailed that Purinton, upon council approval, would conduct 30 hours of bank reconciliation work, 40 hours of capital projects accounting work, and 15 hours of assisting the office with preparation of the schedule of expenditure of federal awards for the year ending June 30, 2012, totaling a little less than $15,000.

"I think it's an opportune time for him to be here working with the staff," Thane told the council.

But 1st Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel brought up a concern with regard to bringing him in for more work.

"The only problem I have with him is he starts out small and his bill just grows exponentially," Isabel said. "Unless we put some kind of cap on it, I'm not too keen on him."

But Thane said that with Purinton's training, along with a replacement for the late controller Ronald Wierzbicki, a new deputy controller, and KVS training, the office will be in good shape.

"Hopefully, we'll have a much more self-sufficient system," she said.

Thane said that the money for bringing him in is worth it in order to help the nearly $30 million budget.

"We really are between a rock and a hard place," she said.

Isabel insisted though that it wasn't the qualification aspect that concerned him, but the money.

This brought some concern from 3rd Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi as well, who echoed Isabel's sentiments saying that she believes Purinton to have a history of that.

"There are other CPAs in the city that are as qualified," she said.

But what also bothered DeRossi was that he had not yet come in to address the council on his findings from his first 40 hours.

"I think anybody would want to hear from the person they're spending all this money on," DeRossi said after the Common Council meeting Wednesday. "We asked multiple times. I don't know if the request wasn't going to him or it wasn't understood, in fairness to him he may not have been asked, but I certainly would like to hear from him himself and have a report from him on what he's done for $7,000 before I spend more than double that again."

DeRossi said she just wants to make sure the city and residents are getting their money's worth.

"It's not a question of his qualifications because he's definitely qualified for the job, this is more of a hopefully we're not being milked for every cent we've got."

Thane grew frustrated hearing the council's response at the Committee of the Whole meeting stressing the time sensitivity of Purinton coming in.

"Oh my goodness gracious," she said. "Can we have a special meeting than because honestly we are already into the new year."

Thane said that the deputy Controller Joy Chiarello, who is currently sitting as interim controller, needs what Purinton can supply.

"Joy can't do this unassisted," Thane said. " She needs to be trained, and this is the training."

Thane continued later to say that she was concerned with not progressing the contract as soon as possible and indicated that she wished the council told her something about this prior to the meeting.

It was decided that Purinton will meet with the council on Tuesday to discuss his findings from the first 40 hours.

If Purinton is hired again, he will work with Chiarello to itemize tasks, see what deadlines need to be adhered to, and decide who needs to be doing what.

Thane said Chiarello has been fielding Wierzbicki's calls and e-mails and going through the papers across his desk to make sure checks don't go unacknowledged and the department knows what are priorities.

As for what will happen to the controller position, Thane said the city has 30 days to appoint one from the Democratic Party.

Ideas were thrown around as to what will happen with the position permanently, whether it will go to a special election or whether the position will begin the process to being appointed.

"I just want to bring this to the council. We can't end up with another situation again where someone is completely overwhelmed by the complexity of the position," she said.

When the Committee meeting ended and the Common Council meeting officially started, the council and mayor held a moment of silence for Wierzbicki's passing and 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman led them in a prayer.

"He served this community to the best of his ability and honestly and tirelessly for a year and he will be sadly missed," Thane said. "We are all very upset in City Hall, as a community."