Editorial: Misplaced good intentions

It’s often said the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We don’t think recent goings on in the Town of Rotterdam rise quite to that level — all the same, something’s been paved at Town Hall this year.

If you haven’t read John Purcell’s front page report on this recent rabble, it breaks down like this: Rotterdam Supervisor Frank Del Gallo has donated his entire 2011 salary toward construction of the town’s veterans memorial, but though the project was very public, he didn’t go through the Town Board for approval of the budget transfers or the costs of building the monument.

The issue is a bit odd because the only thing everyone can agree on is that Del Gallo’s actions were well intentioned and resulted in the construction of a fine tribute to the Town of Rotterdam’s veterans. In this respect, we say “huzzah” to Del Gallo and all the area businesses and private benefactors who put their sweat and wallets toward this cause.

But all the same, Councilwoman Nicola DiLeva and her cohort of critics are right. Del Gallo and everyone else on the board receive taxpayer dollars, and when it comes to public money, every penny should be properly accounted for, even if that exercise seems onerous and superfluous.

Del Gallo was frankly in the wrong when he preemptively put his salary toward the memorial. Last year, when Del Gallo put his $13,000 salary toward renovation of the town’s senior kitchen, the board passed a resolution to move the money over. This time around, it would appear Del Gallo simply modified the budget himself.

Not only is this a technical violation, it sets a dangerous precedence. The people of Rotterdam have elected five people to provide oversight of the budget, not one.

That’s not to mention the fact Del Gallo was essentially taking credit on his salary in both of these years. If some tragedy were to befall the supervisor, heaven forbid, and he were unable to fulfill his term, the town would find his remaining year’s pay already spent. His successor might not agree with that act of charity.

Now, Councilman Wayne Calder, who will be the deputy supervisor under Harry Buffardi, says the town will be petitioning the state Comptroller’s Office to come in and tear apart Rotterdam’s books. If this incident is any indication of how bookkeeping has been handled at Town Hall, then we say the sooner the better. We’ll also be sure to let taxpayers know how many years of the supervisor’s salary it will take to pay for the audit.

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