After the Audit New Gatekeepers Take Charge in Ocean Beach

The Ocean Beach Boat House Meeting Room. Photo by Shoshanna McCollum

There is new leadership in the Ocean Beach Village office. After over a decade with Steven Brautigam serving in the role of Village Clerk-Treasurer at the helm, he tendered his resignation effective November 1, 2022. This move was a long time coming, but closure came abruptly.

A Special Board of Trustees meeting held on Saturday, October 29, was scheduled in haste. The New York State Comptroller’s audit report of the Clerk-Treasurer released on October 14 was unflattering, and subsequent media coverage of it both in this publication on October 21 and a few days later in Newsday further underscored the bad optics.

Attempts were made to normalize the special meeting with routine items like approval of bills and claim vouchers, authorizing the lease renewal of a postage machine – but all eyes were on the entry entitled “ratification of personnel” which was sandwiched in between the mundane items.

Too bad for the numerous virtual attendees that poor audio quality made it sound like the meeting had been recorded somewhere beneath the Great South Bay. Even more unfortunate, Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott was not present. The published minutes of the October 29 meeting reflect that he was present for the Executive portion of the meeting, but “something had come up” according to Deputy Mayor Matthew Blake as he took charge of the meeting’s General Session.

However, the meeting moved along quickly, and some village history was even made inside the Ocean Beach Boat House meeting room. Former Deputy Clerk Jonneigh Adrion was promoted to the position of Village Clerk at the annual rate of $110,000 and former Deputy Treasurer Linda Morrissey was promoted to the position of Village Treasurer at the rate of $128,000 a year.

Adrion and Morrissey’s promotions represent the first time Ocean Beach Village tapped their staff internally to fill these key positions in many decades rather than hiring someone from the outside. Both women are also known faces who have earned the trust and respect of the village residency. Spontaneous applause broke out among the audience once these motions were unanimously approved by all four trustees.

This move also represents the first time that the OB Village Clerk and Treasurer offices were split into two separate job positions instead of a dual role held by a single individual in over a half century.

Still, the Kumbaya moment could not last. The audit report was still out there and attendees were demanding answers.

“I did want to make sure there would be an opportunity to further discuss the situation with Steve Brautigam and the state audit alleging that he’s been overpaid by $44,000 and under tax reported by $11,000 for his vehicle,” said Ocean Beach Association President Maria Silsdorf as she addressed the Board.

Deputy Mayor Blake and Village Attorney Ken Gray both directed Maria to the audit report itself, where the Village Response is listed as Appendix A, published on page 9 of the document. Blake further added that he felt it best “to have the full board represented” to continue the discussion.

In another unfortunate technical error, all virtual attendees were disconnected 25 minutes into the meeting, rendering them unable to participate further, however the meeting was adjourned shortly thereafter.

Restoration of public faith will take time and 2023 is an election year.