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Nov 25, 2014 10:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

In State Court, Halsey Seeks Butler's Ouster From Bridgehampton Fire District

Nov 25, 2014 10:56 AM

The former chairman of the Bridgehampton Fire District’s Board of Commissioners has filed a petition asking that the district’s longtime treasurer be removed from office.

The petition, filed in the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn by attorney Brad Pinsky on behalf of Bridgehampton resident Steven Halsey, demands that Charles Butler be removed from office, and that he be prevented from holding or seeking election to the treasurer’s office for five years.

The petition levels accusations of misconduct, forgery and failing to fulfill the duties of the district treasurer as grounds for removal.

The filing comes one year after the district’s five fire commissioners ousted Mr. Butler from his role as district secretary, an appointed position, and cut the salary for his elected treasurer’s post from $30,000 to just $1,500. The treasurer’s salary has since been reduced to zero.

While the board could not remove Mr. Butler from his elected position, in addition to cutting his pay the district also stripped Mr. Butler of the authority to write checks on the district’s behalf, among other duties. But he remained in the treasurer post and, according to Mr. Halsey’s petition, was expected to continue attending district meetings and reporting for work at the district offices. The petition claims he has done neither in more than a year.

Mr. Butler had been both the district’s secretary and treasurer for more than 30 years, drawing a combined salary of $60,000 per year, plus benefits. Shortly after being stripped of his title and salary, amid accusations of sloppy bookkeeping, Mr. Butler filed a $40 million lawsuit against the district, which is still pending.

The district went so far as to ask Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office to conduct an investigation of Mr. Butler’s bookkeeping practices, but no charges were filed.

Mr. Halsey is a former Southampton Town councilman who served as a fire commissioner for a decade before losing a reelection bid last year, just a week after a public dust-up over Mr. Butler’s duties with the district. Mr. Halsey was a district commissioner at the time of his ouster at the polls and had been the public face of the district’s efforts to remove Mr. Butler from his duties following the hiring of Mr. Pinsky to oversee the district’s business management.

Mr. Halsey lost to write-in candidate Bruce Dombkowski, who voiced anger over the commissioners’, and especially Mr. Halsey’s, treatment of Mr. Butler. Voters also rejected a proposition at the time calling for the treasurer’s position to be changed from an elected one to an appointed one.

The recent motion to have Mr. Butler removed from office may well be moot, since Mr. Butler’s current three-year term as treasurer ends on December 31, and he did not submit the required forms to be a candidate for reelection in next month’s district vote. The removal petition is set to be heard by the Appellate Division panel of judges in mid-December.

“The petition asks that he be removed from office, if he were to be reelected to another term,” said Mr. Halsey’s attorney, Mr. Pinsky, who is also the legal counsel to the Bridgehampton Fire District.

Mr. Halsey declined to comment.

Mr. Pinsky said that a petition for the removal of an elected official must be brought by a member of the community, not the fire district or commissioners in their official roles. Mr. Pinsky said he is being paid by a member of the community, not the fire district, for his work on the petition against Mr. Butler. He refused to identify who is paying his legal fees.

The petition says that Mr. Butler has not fulfilled any of his duties as district treasurer since October of last year, including failing to file state financial reports and payroll tax statements, which resulted in fines levied against the district. It also accuses him of forgery, for signing the name of Bridgehampton Fire Department Chief Gary Horsberg to an insurance claim document regarding a fire that destroyed Mr. Butler’s house in 2012.

Mr. Butler’s attorney, Thomas Horn, said that he was still researching the legal standing of the petition brought by Mr. Halsy and said that at first glance it left the impression that the charges are contrived. “The petition is very unfocused and without merit,” Mr. Horn said.

The district treasurer’s seat will be on next month’s fire district elections ballot. District secretary Barbara Roesel said that Mr. Butler did pick up a candidate petition form but did not return it by last week’s deadline for candidacy. Earl Gandal was the only person to submit a petition for the position and will be the only name on the ballot for the position, though write-in votes are allowed and have a history of carrying the day in fire district elections.

Also on the ballot next month with be a two-way race for the commissioner’s seat being vacated by Tom Dombkowski, as well as the district’s proposed budget, which would climb by more than 34 percent in 2015.

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That be the one . . .the one in the pocket of the millionaire landowner he bent over for. . .it will all come out in court
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Nov 25, 14 8:53 PM
talk about a conflict of interest!! Pinsky is the district's attorney found and hired by Halsey and has created havoc ever since with his advice to the district. and the tax rate goes up 34%???? Maybe time to REALLY look at the district (which is NOT IN ANY PART OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT separate boards) and yes marlin you are correct in that case. the BHFDept yesterday showed it's dedication to being on the call immediately with professional calls about the auto fire and persions who needed medical ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Nov 25, 14 9:12 PM
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