A new clerk has assumed the reins in Westhampton Beach Village following the departure this week of Rebecca Molinaro, who has been at the center of a payroll error controversy for months.
Elizabeth Lindtvit, 54, who was serving as the deputy clerk/treasurer under Ms. Molinaro, took over her position on Wednesday, May 1, after being appointed by Mayor Conrad Teller late last week. In her new role, Ms. Lindtvit, who will make $78,635.51 annually, will oversee the village’s payroll and finances, and be responsible for maintaining all records. She will also be charged with overseeing the village election each June.
For the past two years, Ms. Lindtvit has served under Ms. Molinaro, assisting with the budget and payroll.
“I have the best interests of the village at heart,” Ms. Lindtvit said. “The fact is that I have been here. I worked with Becky and I know the inner workings of the village government. I am a village resident and I am a taxpayer.”
Also last week, the trustees hired another former clerk, Kathleen McGinnis, to help train the new clerk at a rate of $60 an hour, up to $7,500 total. The hiring divided the board, with Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker and Village Trustees Patricia DiBenedetto and Charlie Palmer approving the measure and Mr. Teller and trustee Ralph Urban opposing.
Ms. McGinnis, who trained Ms. Molinaro before retiring in 2010, was hired prior to Mr. Teller announcing who will succeed Ms. Molinaro. At a board meeting on April 4—when the idea of hiring Ms. McGinnis was first suggested by Mr. Tucker—Ms. Lindtvit, who was sitting in the audience, stood up and shouted: “I will not work with her.”
She declined to comment on Ms. McGinnis’s appointment this week, or what prompted her outburst last month.
When reached on Tuesday, Ms. McGinnis said she does not foresee having any issues with Ms. Lindtvit, whom she will now help train.
“I am sorry she feels that way, but the trustees feel very strongly that it is important to have strong leadership and oversight, and, apparently, given all the discontent regarding the financial issues, it is a good idea,” Ms. McGinnis said. “I have never had any problems when I was the village clerk/treasurer overseeing Ms. Lindtvit so I don’t see there being any problem now.”
She added that she has been enlisted during what is a very busy time of year for the village, and that she will work to help get the village back on track.
Earlier this week, Mr. Teller said the appointment of Ms. McGinnis is a strictly political move. He said the other trustees are upset that the mayor has the authority to appoint someone to the post without board approval.
Mr. Tucker has denied those accusations, stating that Ms. McGinnis was hired to support and assist the new clerk, not to undermine the mayor’s authority. He also said Ms. McGinnis, who worked for the village for 16 years, boasts a wealth of knowledge and can help Ms. Lindtvit get accustomed to her new role.
“We have someone starting this Wednesday [May 1] and we have the beaches opening and we have elections going on—it is prudent to have someone for assisting purposes,” Mr. Tucker said. “It is to assist the village clerk. She has a lot of knowledge and I want checks and balances in place. As a resource, Kathy is great.”
Mr. Tucker said he has worked with Ms. Lindtvit in the past and has never had an issue with her or her work. Still, he wishes that the mayor would have made more of an effort to include the other trustees in the interview process.
Mr. Teller explained that while Ms. Molinaro will not be around to train Ms. Lindtvit, she has worked with her over the past two-plus years and already knows what she is doing. He described her as a perfect fit to replace Ms. Molinaro, who recently accepted a new post in East Hampton Village.
The mayor later added that, if necessary, Ms. Lindtvit can attend training offered by the state in the fall.
“Liz has been in the business for close to 30 years,” Mr. Teller said. “She has been around long enough and worked for the village for 10 years. I think she is well-qualified to do the job without having to have somebody hold her hand.”
A lifelong East End resident, Ms. Lindtvit was born in Hampton Bays and moved to Westhampton Beach in 1992. She has an associate degree in accounting from Suffolk County Community College and, in 1979, started her career as an assistant in the Southampton Town Tax Assessor’s office. She worked there for four years before moving over to the town comptroller’s office, where she handled payroll, financial documents and receipts. In 2000, she became a senior account clerk for Westhampton Beach Village and, two year later, was named deputy clerk/treasurer.
Ms. Lindtvit’s term will run until next June, at which time the mayor will have to decide whether to reappoint her. Mr. Teller is up for reelection next year.
Mr. Tucker also explained that one of the reasons he wants to explore the idea of replacing the village clerk with a village administrator is that the latter must be appointed by the entire board. Pointing to the two payroll errors made by Ms. Molinaro, Mr. Tucker said a village administrator would have to explain her mistakes to the entire board and not just the mayor.
Mr. Teller said he does not yet know enough about the differences between village clerks and village administrators to form an opinion. He did say, however, that the current system seems to be working fine, and previously noted that payroll errors are common mistakes for municipalities.
Mr. Teller also has appointed Jeannine Conte as the new deputy clerk. Ms. Conte, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance and management, will make $58,000 a year. She currently serves as deputy treasurer of the Westhampton Beach Fire District.