A five-member board of trustees, tasked with tending to the town of Southampton’s underwater land and public access, allegedly dispensed $1.5 million with no oversight over a period of five years until town citizens cracked down with a lawsuit, according to a press report.
The group’s power stemmed from a royal mandate in 1686 known as the Dongan Patent, which gave the trustees access to a 12-member staff and salaries totaling $476,955 out of a total budget of $820,319. The trustees generate revenue by selling dock permits and hunting licenses, along with beach parking passes. But the revenue did not make its way into town coffers as is required by law, but instead maneuvered into nine different bank accounts under the control of the individual trustees, according to court papers cited by the New York Post.
In addition to the alleged misdirected revenues, the quintet allegedly gave themselves $100-per-month cellphone stipends and designated thousands of dollars per year for gasoline. They also used the cash to pay for funeral floral arrangements and funneled funds into legal fees to sue their opponents, according to the story in the Post.
The runaway spending finally ground to a halt after a group of residents sued and secured a preliminary injunction that stopped the trustees from spending the town’s money independently. The trustees are now contemplating an appeal.
“They have consistently acted contrary to the law,” Gary Vegliante, mayor of West Hampton Dunes, a village within Southampton, told the post. [NYP] — Julie Strickland