Town of North Hempstead once again without key dept. head
The Town of North Hempstead’s comptroller, Kristen Schwaner, resigned August 18 from the position after only four months on the job. The Town unanimously voted to appoint Schwaner as the Town’s new Comptroller on April 25.
The resignation came as a surprise to members of the Town board. Councilmember Veronica Lurvey stated that she was unaware of the change until she contacted the comptroller’s office to conduct town business. “She was going to look into and research something for the town, but when I checked in with her, I got an automatic written response that she was no longer with the town.”
Supervisor Jenn DeSena had the following to say as part of her statement about the resignation: “Kristen’s resignation is certainly a disappointing turn of events, as she was proving herself to be an excellent comptroller and I was looking forward to crafting next year’s budget with her on my team.”
DeSena also speculated on the reason for Schwaner’s departure in an email. “Unfortunately, I believe she became fed up at constantly being put in the position by the Town Board to either report to them as they sought to undermine the budgetary authority granted to my office by state law, or to continue to do her job as Town Code dictates and report to the Supervisor. Our residents deserve better than elected officials who would put their political self-interests ahead of the best interests of our residents.”
The Comptroller is responsible for the overall financial management of the Town and its Town Operated Districts. Areas of activities include, but are not limited to: payroll processing; debt service administration; accounts payable; cash receipts processing; general ledger accounting for all Town operated funds; financial reporting to Town management, regulators and the citizenry; interfacing with multiple Commissioner Operated Special Districts; extensive participation in the annual budget process; liaison with the Town’s independent auditors as well as auditors for the Commissioner Operated Special Districts.
“I am very pleased that the Town has officially appointed Kristen Schwaner as Town Comptroller,” Supervisor DeSena said at the time of Shwaner’s appointment. “North Hempstead has been without a formally appointed Comptroller since before my first day in office almost 16 months ago, but after an extensive search process, I believe that Ms. Schwaner will be an excellent addition to our Town staff and will work hard to fulfill my administration’s mandate of protecting our taxpayers’ wallets. Now that this has been accomplished, I look forward to working with Ms. Schwaner as we move to bring on capable and qualified deputies to fill out our Comptroller Department management team.”
Councilmember Lurvey was also excited to have Schwaner as comptroller. “With her wealth of experience in both finance and accounting, I believe that our Town will benefit greatly from her expertise. Her exceptional qualifications make her a perfect fit for this role, and I am confident that she will excel in her duties,” Lurvey stated in April.
When accepting the appointment, Schwaner herself expressed her enthusiasm in the new role. “The opportunity to serve as the Comptroller of the Town of North Hempstead is both an honor and a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I am excited to be part of the Town Board’s leadership team, ensuring fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability. Together, we will strive to make North Hempstead an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Prior to Schwaner’s appointment, Finance Director Paul Wood was acting as interim comptroller. DeSena stated Wood is once again filling this role.
The search for a candidate the Supervisor and board could agree on was lengthy. DeSena stated that she felt this was politically motivated. “Upon taking office, I was greeted with the news that that very same day would be our Comptroller and Chief Deputy Comptroller’s last day employed by the Town, as they had given notice 2 weeks prior and no one thought to give my incoming administration any sort of heads up. Since then, the situation with this post has only gone further downhill as my colleagues on the Town Board dragged out the search process and voted down the qualified candidates I put forth, baselessly claiming I was bringing in certain individuals for political gain even though the interview process was bipartisan and this individual was a finalist for the job. Ultimately the search continued until we finally settled on Kristen, who I believed would be a great asset to the Town.”
The next opportunity to appoint Schwaner’s replacement is the Sept. 5 town meeting. This year’s budget schedule will also be set at the Sept. 5 meeting. The deadline for the proposed budget is the end of September. Preparing the budget is one of the major responsibilities of the comptroller’s office.
Lurvey expressed concern over entering the budget process without a comptroller, since last year’s budget was also prepared without filling this position. “(Schwaner’s resignation) is a great loss. Especially as we head into this year’s budget season. It is already the end of August and the supervisor, according to state law, has to present a tentative budget by September 30. After which (there is) the process of amending that budget to create a preliminary budget and how many public hearings there needs to be… There’s a whole state law mandated process. but we have to hit that deadline.”
Supervisor DeSena acknowledged the difficulty of preparing a budget without the comptroller, a situation she already experienced last year. “Our Comptroller will be missed and undoubtedly preparing a budget without her will again present some challenges, but I successfully did it last year while offering the largest tax cut in Town history, and I will be offering another record setting tax cut for our residents next month when I submit my tentative budget for 2024.”
This is the second resignation this month of a major department head in the town. Moira La Barbera, the director of purchasing, also resigned recently.
Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte expressed dismay and consternation at these resignations. “I’m deeply disappointed and concerned about the recent departures of two valued department heads. The lack of communication from the Supervisor regarding their leaving has left us with unanswered questions and a sense of unease,” she shared in an email.
Not only is the comptroller position open once again, but the two deputy comptrollers are also unfilled. “There is a staff there that’s still working. In the past, when we were still looking for a permanent comptroller, people have stepped up to pitch in and to do what was necessary. But I think we have to appoint somebody on a temporary basis.” Councilmember Lurvey said.
The comptroller position is appointed for the term of the supervisor. Supervisor DeSena’s current term ends at the end of this year. This complicates the search for a new comptroller.
Schwaner is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 15 years of experience in finance and accounting. She previously held positions at Sight Growth Partners, New York-Presbyterian, and ProHEALTH Medical Management. She has also held senior positions at EY and Marcum. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University.