Smithtown board revisits commissioner proposal

Smithtown board revisits commissioner proposal

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Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton (R) is reaching out to Suffolk County as he continues to push a plan that would reform the town’s government setup.

It has been nearly two months since the town board last discussed the government restructure proposal, which Creighton and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) advocated for at a work session in March. Officials renewed discussion Tuesday morning when Creighton said he would be asking Suffolk County Personnel Director Alan Schneider to attend an upcoming work session and offer insight on how other municipalities endured a similar reform.

Under the plan, Smithtown would restructure its government services by placing a commissioner at the head of various departments, similar to operations in neighboring municipalities. For example, there would be one commissioner per department heading up areas like public safety, public works, planning and development and of human services, overseeing all levels of the town’s government.

“This is a very desirable place to live and we could improve on the way we run government,” Creighton reiterated at Tuesday morning’s work session. “I do think this would be an improvement because we would have far more accountability.”

Creighton said neighboring municipalities, including Brookhaven, already had similar makeups, differing greatly from Smithtown’s current structure of appointing councilmembers as liaisons to check in on various department heads.

“We do have liaison relationships with these various departments, but liaison is liaison,” Creighton said. “Direct control is something else.”

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), however, remained unimpressed by the proposal, as he was when it was discussed two months ago. While he said he was open to the prospect of Schneider coming to the board to discuss the restructuring, he did not feel it would sway him in favor of doing it.

Vecchio said in March he was worried that such a reform would bring about more political obstructionism in Smithtown, saying he felt the town already runs efficiently and that there is risk of losing sight of that by changing power.

“I have no problem with the town board. I really don’t,” Vecchio said. “I think we run very well. I’m not convinced this will make the town run any better. I just don’t see the need.”

When the plan was discussed in March, Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) called for a financial analysis on such a proposal so as not to cost Smithtown taxpayers any additional dollars. Creighton brought that concern to the table Tuesday morning, suggesting that if commissioners were chosen out of the pool of current town employees, no additional costs would be accrued.

“We can use people from within and it will not cost the taxpayer anything,” Creighton said. “It’s a more reasonable span of control.”

The next work session is scheduled for June 2 at town hall.