Family: husband, Gary; five children ages 14 to 21
Member of Westchester County Charter Revision, June 2011 to present; Board member, New Yorkers for Growth, bipartisan PAC promoting growth in N.Y. State, 2010 to present; Longtime
supporter and volunteer for Rye Schools, Rye Arts Center, Rye
library and Rye Historical Society.
One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: I run a Red Sox fan club in N.Y.
Q: Considering the financial scandal at Rye Golf Club uncovered last year, one of the City Council’s main priorities next year will be making sure nothing of the sort ever happens again. How has the city been doing so far in terms of increasing oversight at all levels?
A: How the city is doing is a little bit different from how the council is doing. I think the city has put some things in place. One of my complaints is I don’t think we have let the community know what financial checks and balances have been put in place that are different from what we had before, [such as new security measures for employee checks], and there seems to be a view that nothing has been done, when the reality is there is.
Q: What are your proposals and ideas for the golf club going forward?
A: I don’t think we should spend the money on a search firm and go look for a [club] manager until we know what the job is. And the reason we don’t know what the job is is that we’re still contemplating doing an RFP for the food service part of it. And that job, if you’re running an entire club, with food service or doing golf and pool, with maybe a little oversight on golf, they’re different jobs and search firms are expensive, so I still think we need an interim person while we’re still figuring out what it’s going to look like. Personnel reviews is another thing that should be done.
Q: Considering City Manager Scott Pickup’s role in signing the majority of the golf club purchase orders alleged to be fraudulent, as well as his role in the Rye TV controversy, there has been much speculation on whether he is still the right person for the job. What steps should be taken when a new administration is elected to deal with the general loss of confidence in the city manager?
A: I think everybody in town is well aware of the controversy and all the issues at Rye Golf Club. I think it shows that we definitely had some limitations in our internal controls and certainly some communication breakdowns that were pretty serious, and I think giving the Rye Golf Club Commission more say in what goes on is a good idea and will help matters.
We should probably all figure out whether or not the new council can work with the city manager. The job of the city manager is an incredibly complicated and multifaceted job, which requires a lot of skill sets and it’s not easy to find someone to fill that job, and there is no assistant city manager to the active city manager when he leaves. A lot of people have called for us to get rid of him tomorrow, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Obviously, right now, with the police commissioner leaving, there’s another top position we have to be even more careful about who’s there and who’s not there.
Q: With word that William Connors is resigning as police commissioner in January, how should the city go about hiring a new commissioner? Should it be handled before or after the election?
A: I think we should start the process now and I believe Scott [Pickup] has asked for a proposal from a few search firms. I don’t anticipate we would get those back before the Oct. 23 [City Council] meeting. They need to vet candidates and, by that time, we will know who is on the City Council and they can be part of the process. I don’t anticipate that we would hire someone until January or February just because of the holidays and how long things take and whomever we do hire probably needs to give notice at their current job.
So, it makes sense to me to start now. We will know in five weeks who will be on the council, and I’d like to see someone from the police department involved, too. The city charter allows the city manager to appoint a police commissioner, but I don’t think the council wants it go that way and I don’t think Scott wants it to go that way. He knows the council wants input.
Q: How do you feel the current administration has done in terms of holding the line on taxes? What ideas do you have in terms of taxpayer savings that have yet to be implemented?
A: I think the current administration has done pretty well, but sometimes there’s a cost to that. We reduced staff a fair amount over the last few years, but our pension and healthcare costs keep going up…and, at a certain point, we can’t look to reducing staff anymore for savings on taxes. Even though some people might say the financial position of the city is great and we have a triple A rating, we sold the [Lesters] building, or our reserve fund is better than it’s been; I still am worried about our financial sustainability going forward.
Next year, there is one thing I think a lot of people don’t realize. People call it the 2 percent tax cap, but next year it’s the 1.66 percent tax cap. Two percent was what the rate of inflation just happened to be when it came into existence. Staff is thin, but, at the same time, where do we get the money to hire more people? If the city is looking for more revenue, there will be a lot harder decisions than we’ve made in the past and, by harder decisions, I mean: Do we outsource something? Do we raise fees even more? Some of the councils in the past have really been very hesitant to do so.
Q: In terms of flood mitigation, do you think the city is prepared for the next big weather event with the advent of the new sluice gate?
A: l hope the city is prepared for any kind of storm. I think the city has done well in storm preparedness, but, with flooding, we really have to have a conversation with the county and the state and the other municipalities around these issues.
Q: What will be your three most important priorities in office, if re-elected?
A: First, keeping Rye on a fiscally sustainable path, because everything else flows from that. If we don’t have money, we can’t do anything else.
Second, infrastructure and continuing to evaluate what we really need there. Part of that is capital expenses whether they be a recycling truck or whatnot. And trying to see how it all figures into item one. When it comes to infrastructure needs, I am particularly interested in looking at some of the new technology for crosswalks.
Third, as a group: Rye Golf Club, Rye Golf Club management and management in Rye.
-Reporting by Liz Button