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May 3, 2013 5:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Will Consider Barring Cops From Politics

May 6, 2013 1:48 PM

The Southampton Town Board will consider a bill next month that would bar Town Police officers from serving on any political party committees or as party officials.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming proposed the bill this week, calling it a possible way to eliminate the accusations of pervasive political influence within the Southampton Town Police Department’s chain of command, which have dogged the department in recent months. She said removing cops from the official political arena would, at the very least, eliminate the appearance of any possible improper influence being involved in decisions about policy, promotions or the handling of internal affairs and investigations—all issues that have come up within the town department in the last two years.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve had some issues with regard to the police department that have manifested in disciplinary charges and … a number of things that raise concerns both for [the Town Board members] as commissioners and for the public,” Ms. Fleming said on Tuesday, shortly before the Town Board voted to schedule a public hearing on the bill. “We have an obligation to take whatever steps we can to make sure the police department is run in an impartial way. We’re making a lot of other changes already, with policy and technology—this is just part of that.”

Last year, former Police Chief William Wilson Jr. filed ethics complaints against Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Councilwoman Christine Scalera, saying that they should have recused themselves from their role in the investigation of disciplinary charges he had filed against Lieutenant James Kiernan, who is a member of the Southampton Town Republican Committee. The committee makes decisions about who will get the party’s endorsement, and financial support, in town elections.

Chief Wilson has also accused the Republican Party of playing a role in controlling the ascension of officers within the department ranks, ensuring that those loyal to the party receive promotions and are moved up the ladder into top brass jobs—including the chief’s office.

“Frankly, what I’m sitting back watching unfold is a political entity that wants to march somebody into a chief of police position,” the former chief said in a recent interview. “Because that’s what’s unfolding. And that’s all about political payback. The politics and the tentacles of the politics have become so firmly grasped around the throat of that police department, it’s far worse than anything I had ever imagined. There is just flat-out political patronage being conducted there.”

Last month, members of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the union representing the rank-and-file police officers, leveled pointed criticism at Republican members of the Town Board for what they characterized as efforts by the politicians to shift blame for the fallout from a district attorney’s office investigation of the department, which has led to charges being dropped against a number of convicted felons.

Officer Eric Sickles was discovered to have been addicted to prescription drugs while continuing to work on undercover drug investigations, under Lt. Kiernan’s supervision. Former Chief Wilson accused Lt. Kiernan of having allowed Officer Sickles to work after becoming aware of his dependency issues, jeopardizing the cases they built against criminals. Two convicted felons were released from prison last year after the district attorney’s office found faults in the cases built against them by Officer Sickles and Lt. Kiernan and asked the court to dismiss the cases.

Ms. Fleming said that while there may well not have been any political influence at play in the handling of the charges against Lt. Kiernan—who returned to duty last October after a six-month suspension—the potential for the sort of accusations made by Chief Wilson and the PBA leadership would have been greatly muted were he not a member of the political committee. She also acknowledged that to the extent interpersonal relationships between politically active people extend beyond just party committees, the legislation would likely not be a fix-all for any perceived issues of political influence in the police department—but said it would be a start.

“No, it won't end it completely, but it’s a step I can offer,” Ms. Fleming said. “Whether there is influence there or not, there is no reason we should even have to have the discussion, to have the appearance of impropriety. This will free the cops to do their jobs without outside pressures.”

The board will host a public hearing on the proposed legislation at its May 14 meeting.

Only Councilman Jim Malone voted against holding the public hearing on the legislation—he offered no explanation for his objection—though other members did raise concerns about whether the town could legally impose such restrictions on police officers locally.

“I don’t know that we can make a restriction like this,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “If we do it for the police, does it have to be done for everyone in town employment? That said, we’re all trying to get on a straight and narrow course here. To the degree you can take politics out of anything here, it’s a good thing.”

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Want to "take the politics out of" our governmental process?

Record ALL communications, night or day.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 4, 13 5:52 AM
Enact a strong ethics code and severe criminal penalties for betraying the public trust.

Require elected officials to recuse themselves from any votes that involve any individual, corporation, PAC or partnership which contributes to their individual or party campaign finance account

Lengthy incarceration and full disclosure of campaign finance donations will go a long way toward taking the criminality out of government. If elected officials can't vote on resolutions involving ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on May 4, 13 1:40 PM
At the April 23 Town Board Meeting, I provided a print out of the Model Policy on Standards of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers advocated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for the Town Board to consider apropos this Ethics Code amendment proposed by Councilwoman Fleming. Here is the web link for interested readers:

I suggested that ...more
By Linda Kabot (14), Quogue on May 4, 13 6:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Clarity (65), Whb on May 4, 13 10:47 PM
Councilwoman Fleming's proposal should be adopted as law. Equally necessary is a statutory prohibition of officers' wearing their uniform off-duty without the express, prior approval of the Chief of Police.

These laws would begin the process of weaning the cops from their habit of intimidating political opponents while relying on their own political patrons to protect their behinds.

The "Model Policy" is merely a persuasive document. Its lack of suggested "Uniform Codes" for ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 5, 13 12:18 AM
Any proactive legislation would be welcome, as long as it does not obscure the need to examine the past closely for illegalities involving the PD and the Town Board.

A federal investigation, grand jury or special prosecutor is the only way to remove the stains of past cronyism IMO.

Put 'em all under oath, and let the chips fall where they may.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 5, 13 12:05 PM
I would like to see it for all Town employees but I wonder if such a restriction is unconstitutional.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 5, 13 12:36 PM
No. It is not unconstitutional. The Hatch Act anyone.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on May 13, 13 9:39 AM
Stritcly enforced ethics code and recusal sounds like a great idea. Restricting people from being involved in local politics at its higher levels because of their occupation is disturbing.
By user.name (46), the jungle on May 5, 13 5:22 PM
This must be the end of days. A Town Board member has suggested that a law be passed to prevent local pols and cops from stroking each other.

Not to worry, though, the Press kicked the story off the front page mere hours after its appearance. None in the establishment wants to hear such treason.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 5, 13 6:47 PM
She says to eliminate the accusations and appearance. She never said anything about eliminating discreet back scratching.
This is not armageddon, this is damage control.
By user.name (46), the jungle on May 5, 13 7:35 PM
This has been a problem for decades not the last couple years. The reason we have cops making 150k a year is because our politicians want the PBA support at election time. It is time to disband the SHTPD it is not worth the effort.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 5, 13 6:59 PM
What is the status of the federal investigation into the "real mess" (per the Press's editorial) of the SHT PD and the Town Board?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 5, 13 8:49 PM
Article updated, quoting former Chief Wilson: "There is just flat-out political patronage being conducted there.”

Many other new quotes IMO from Ms. Fleming, etc..

RIP Sister Walsh -- 44 weeks later:


By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 6, 13 10:44 AM
when the Boston bombing happened the FBI wanted as many pictures public as possible. In the hit in run of sister Walsh the South Hampton Town PD did exactly the opposite,and didn't release one single picture of the person accused of the hit and run.It looks and sounds like a cover up from the second it happened. Not to mention the person accused of the Hit and run is an illegal alien.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 6, 13 12:22 PM
3 members liked this comment
Add this questionable delay in Sister Walsh's hit-and-run investigation to the shopping list for the federal investigation.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 6, 13 1:14 PM
Southampton is one word.

The term is hit AND run.

Lets see now, the police should have released a picture of a Hispanic male, 5'2" 140 lbs, dark hair and eyes. You don't have enough fingers to count the thousands of false sighting that would have instigated.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on May 7, 13 1:14 PM
blank!, did not the police know more than this, very soon after the homicide?

From the driver's vehicle abandoned nearby, they knew his employer, exact name, address presumably, and had a photo ID.

I don't recall the timing of this information going to the PD, but the earlier articles went into considerable detail, so on this occasion -- almost NINE months after Sister Walsh was mowed down and left to die on the side of the road -- it seems like a good time to dive back into the ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 13 6:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry, approaching the TENTH month since Sister Walsh was mowed down.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 13 6:17 PM
Of course they knew more than what we read here. My point being that unless the driver had some very distinguishing physical characteristics, a description of an Hispanic male, even with a picture would have generated an enormous number of false sightings.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on May 7, 13 9:48 PM
AND the immediate release of his exact name, photo, place of employment etc. would have allowed friends, relatives, etc. to rat him out, would it not?

You can't be serious to defend the reasonableness of the police delay here, oh wait, I guess your self-admitted bias is kicking in again.

Well, it shows here IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 13 10:09 PM
Or, blank!, have you forgotten that the papers from the NY Post to all the local papers all had front-page coverage of the victim being a nun left to die on the side of the road.

And no one would have turned the driver in pronto?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 13 10:15 PM
Nope, not commenting on the investigation, just saying how the public would have reacted.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on May 7, 13 11:36 PM
Hah, "no comment" -- it figures!

What about the speedy apprehension of the Boston suspects, as chief1 points out above (plus comments in other articles).

Why talk about what the public would have done, if the driver's name and photo had similarly led to a speedy arrest here?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 8, 13 6:03 AM
Today marks the tenth month since Sister Walsh was mowed down and left to die on the side of the road.

Rest in Peace
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 13 7:24 AM
The public asked to help, but the Town Police waited 11 days to release the driver's ID and photo.


By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 13 7:26 AM

This Fleming initiative is an obvious no-brainer requirement for good municipal governance. Just look at how many present and past cops are in the Republican Committee that screen potential political aspirants. It is a constant reminder that the candidate better not cross them in the future, lest they get dropped the next time around or worse, get slapped with a phoney DUI, arrest, incarceration, and criminal charge, just before election day."WE GOT HER", as they proudly and dutifully informed ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on May 6, 13 2:55 PM
5 members liked this comment
1) There are plenty of websites that show public employee names and pension or payroll amounts, there is not a single person above 100K. No even close to $200k as you claim.
2) The town hall meetings are on the town website. There is not a single incident were an officer said a single word, let alone intimidating or "snarling like Ku Klux Klan thugs". They all appear to be just sitting or standing and watching the meeting. No thuggery, just your imagination. If you look at the swearing in for ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on May 6, 13 9:26 PM

You have selective amnesia. I don't watch Channel 22 to see Town Board meetings all that often except when I want to take a nap or go to bed early.

But I like to occasionally watch the meetings live if only to watch ATH subtly promote and hail the advantages of hated developers' vioaltion of zoning law under the guise of community's best interests for "campaign money" which she accepts with abandon.

I was present on at least two occasions as the community was aghast as these ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on May 6, 13 11:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Spinny you must be a new to the Town of SH and not at all knowledgeable of past town board meeting. Go to the town web site and take a look at the town board meeting of August 26. 2008 Public Portion and educate yourself on how the PBA powers at the time were disrespectful to the then supervisor. The intimidation was disgraceful, with officers dressed in uniform, standing room only.
How convienent of you to forget about this town board meeting, stay in speonk in your own dream world. Also, you ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on May 7, 13 1:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Both you and Obbservant are dependant on lies circulated on this board rather than doing some actual research. As I pointed out, you can go to websites such as seethroughny.net and find the pay and pensions of actual officers, but that would shatter your dillusion and prove that I am correct about 6 figure pensions.
Both of you have also continued this dillusion about disrespectful cops and "the community was aghast". The only disrespectfull person at the meeting was Supervisor Kabot who started ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on May 7, 13 6:18 PM
Come on Spinny are you for real? Go to the Town of SH web site click on the Budget, go to the 2013 adopted budget, go to the Police Dept budget and see all the police officers earning over $100,000 a year. Of course some do earn under 100K, but many earn over the 6 figure #. Don't forget Spinny that figure shown on the town web site does not include overtime. Also, if you think for one minute that those police officers speaking at the Aug 26 TB meeting were not disrespectful then it is you who is ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on May 7, 13 6:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
to Spinny OHO:

Here's the link* to take you to the Town website (again) which shows that the highest paid patrolman costs us $194K/yr., the highest paid SERGEANT costs us $220K/yr., and the highest paid lieutenant costs us $235K/yr.

"I" saw the 2008 Town Board meeting video. Far from Supervisor Kabot "yelling" at the cops, she seemed cowed by the bombastic attack by Officer Gwinn of the PBA. Of course, that reaction may have been catalyzed by the other board members' supine ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 7, 13 9:36 PM
1 member liked this comment

Spinny, you are simply out of you league here, inhabiting an alternate Pat Aube/PBA universe where you guys see nothing wrong being municipal thugs that act like you have single digit IQs. You quote" facts"that are figments of your imagination and grotesque self-image that speak so obviously and forcefully for the total elimination of the wackily compenated and abusive Southampton Police Dept.that thinks nothing of repeatedly berating their own CEO/Supervisor.

As I said before, your ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on May 7, 13 10:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
So I see. I answer about pensions and you answer about payroll. You still haven't tolds me which cops have a pension above $100K.
I answer about the swearing in of Chief Wilson and you answer about a totally differnt meeting.
When the facts don't fit your delusion, talk about something else.
By the way, the COST of an official is totally differn't then what an office is paid in wages. For the third time, I would like to mention that there are web sites that you can actually see the ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on May 8, 13 5:32 PM
Tsk, tsk, the topic was always Cop compensation and benefits. Pension is only part of itfor a specific retiree. and is paid for by the Town based on actuarial estimates - never by individual line item in a budget specificall . Why, when did I ever claim any cop had a $100K + pension.

You seem to have a problem following a coherent line of thought. Or did you just throw that specious pension line as a distraction because you were caught with your pants down arguing that no cop makes over ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on May 9, 13 12:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
pssst Her proposal will go nowhere. State law dictates allowable political activities by public employees. It cannot be further restrained by a local municipality.

Go talk to Fred Thiele and Ken LaValle if you want to see a change.
End of discussion.

By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on May 7, 13 1:12 PM
If this legislation is passed, then I think it should also include all town employee's as well. This would prevent council persons from holding GOP positions of authority and how there party votes, it should also include the hiring practices, who might be family members of persons within GOP positions. The one issue in the police department has been distorted, and never proven that political infueance has occured. So if it is to be law, make it for all employees.
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on May 10, 13 7:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
As the first post says, if you want to take the politics out of government, record all non-privileged communications.



By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 11, 13 3:04 PM
If the ethics board had any ethics this legislation would not be needed. Let us try barring politics from the police department first.
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on May 12, 13 8:20 PM