Editor’s Note: The following op-ed from is in response to a letter that the current says was sent to the Port Washington News. Some background on this op-ed was provided at Thursday’s board meeting, when the board approved a number of resolutions, including new procurement and credit card policies in the spirit transparency and in response to a . Also discussed at the meeting was a settlement with Anthony Soldano for $80,000, up from an original claim of $27,000. That settlement, too, is explained in this op-ed.
For some, loss is a painful, bitter pill to swallow. Former Trustee Jim Avena’s polemic in last week’s Letters to the Editor, claiming that “Manorhaven is headed down the wrong path…..” has to be viewed in the light it was written: to deflect from the horrendous realty that the Village’s finances were in total and complete disarray.
Mr. Avena seeks to redeem his reputation (and quasi political career) after a resounding electoral defeat. Manorhaven’s finances were an utter disaster, with unbalanced account books, irreconciled account statements, no coherent policy on spending, credit cards issued to so-called “government” officials, and checks written to vendors who stopped providing services, in some cases, months ago.
An absolute and gross waste of tax payer dollars. Indeed, on July 2nd, the day the new administration took control, not one person in Village could tell us a balance in any of the Village bank accounts.
We found piles of fed-ex and manila envelopes with tax checks from banks that hold the mortgages of our citizens, thrown aside like a piece of paper trash. Our system was registering late fees and penalties (what is called Dunning Letters) for delinquent tax payments, when all along the money was under the Clerk’s desk, hundreds of thousands of dollars carelessly thrown aside; a breach of the most basic and fundamental of the Village’s duty to its resident citizens.
Mr. Avena’s written diatribe is also full of lies and distortions. The case of the Village business owner Anthony Soldano is a perfect analogy. Mr. Soldano had leased garage space to the Village under the Capozzi Administration. It was discovered that Village officials may have caused damage to the property when the Village occupied it. An agreement was proposed by the Village and accepted for $27,000, signed by both parties, and approved by the then Board of Trustees. Then, for no other reason than to “stick-it” to Mr. Soldano, the past administration refused to honor its signed Settlement Agreement. Now, the Village was exposed and severely compromised. A Settlement Agreement is binding, very binding, and an admission of liability. You just can’t walk away from it because it may suit your vindictive nature. To now have to defend this purposeful breach and spend countless thousands of Village dollars, was in the advice of the village attorney, not a prudent use of Village funds. From the beginning, Mr. Soldano’s claim was legitimate, so the decision was made to settle this case and wipe the slate clean. This expenditure is just another example of how the prior administrations governed this Village.
Let’s talk unsophistication, Mr. Avena, shall we. The recent audit by the Office of the New York State Comptroller found that prior administrations of Meehan and Di Leo’s were “poor stewards of the Village’s finances.” They violated competitive bidding practices, which could have saved the Village money, had no control over three (3) Village credits cards, now all cancelled, and no formal credit card policy, where the Comptroller’s office found that “72% of all credit card purchases had no receipts substantiating the charges.” What was the money used for? The citizens would like to know. In addition, Village Justice bank deposits required to be deposited in most cases within 72 hours of their receipt, were often deposited days or even weeks later. If the Village were a private corporation, it would have closed down.
Once we took over, we took immediate action. We fired the accountant and retained Rosen & Federico, a highly experienced team of CPA’s and forensic accountants to dig in and fix this mess. Robert Rosen and his associate Ryan Jablonski have spent weeks at Village Hall reconciling our accounts and inputting what the Village receives and properly balancing the books. Never again will checks go un-deposited, bank statements left irrreconciled, and nor will expenditures be made to phantom, non-performing vendors. Accountability, integrity and honesty are what govern this administration. This is the people’s money, not the personal elixir for government officials, Mr. Avena.
Writing editorials for the sole purpose of pulling the wool over the eyes of our residents, is nothing more than an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. What we uncovered demonstrates an unsophistication on an unprecedented level. In this instance, malfeasance would be a compliment.
Mayor Giovanna Giunta took office July 2.