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Sep 5, 2012 9:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suspended Lieutenant Appeals For Financial Help

Sep 5, 2012 2:30 PM

Southampton Town Police Lieutenant James Kiernan, who was suspended by the Town Board earlier this year after a litany of disciplinary charges were filed against him by Police Chief William Wilson, has made a personal appeal to friends and supporters to help fund the legal costs of fighting the charges against him.

In a letter sent to a select group of acquaintances—a copy of which was shared with The Press by a recipient—Lt. Kiernan thanks friends for their support during his recent “ordeal” and asks them to attend a September 29 fundraiser being held by the Superior Officers Association, the union that represents department brass and has been funding his legal representation in fighting what he called “an unwarranted attack on my character.”

In the letter, Lt. Kiernan thanked his friends for their support, spiritual and material, since his suspension in May, and he vowed to fight the charges through what he said he expects to be a long battle over “unjust political attacks.”

Lieutenant Kiernan was first placed on administrative leave by Chief Wilson in April, barely six months after the chief had promoted the 15-year veteran, and was suspended by the Town Board on May 4 after the chief presented the board with a report on the dozens of charges he was leveling against the lieutenant. The charges focused on Lt. Kiernan’s conduct while the head of the town’s now disbanded Street Crime Unit, an undercover anti-drug squad that has been the focus of an investigation by Chief Wilson and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office.

A second Street Crime Unit member, Officer Eric Sickles, also was suspended by the Town Board. Just a week after Lt. Kiernan’s suspension, the D.A.’s office recommended that two convicted drug dealers be released from prison because of problems with the legal case that led to their conviction based on the investigations of the Street Crime Unit.

Lt. Kiernan did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Town Police Sergeant Michael Zarro, the vice-president of the Southampton Town Police Superior Officers Association, said that the fundraiser this month is intended to raise money for the union as a whole and not just for Lt. Kiernan’s defense. He said it is the first time the union has held a fundraiser since the senior officers formed their own collective bargaining entity in 2010, but that he hopes it will become an annual event.

“We’re a small union so we don’t have a lot of people to do anything big on our own,” he said. “The bigger departments, Suffolk County, Riverhead, have SOA unions, but we don’t have any affiliation with them, we’re our own separate union.”

Sgt. Zarro said he was unaware of how much the union has spent on legal fees since Lt. Kiernan’s suspension.

The disciplinary hearings for Lt. Kiernan before an administrative judge are scheduled to begin later this month, according to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato. She said that three hearing sessions have been scheduled thus far, scattered over many weeks to fit the schedules of the various lawyers involved and the judge, but that the process could last through several sessions.

The town has hired the Westbury law firm Sokoloff Stern to represent the police chief and Town Board at the hearings. Lt. Kiernan is represented by Superior Officers Association attorney Ray Perini.

Mr. Perini declined to comment this week on the case against Lt. Kiernan, other than to reiterate his steadfast claim that he believes the lieutenant will ultimately be exonerated. Mr. Perini said he had not received the invitation to the fundraiser from Lt. Kiernan, but said he hoped he would and would be happy to contribute himself.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the union trying to raise money and being up-front about it when they’re under attack,” he said. “I don’t know if it is common with the SOA, but I know other agencies and organizations do that all the time.”

Mr. Perini would not estimate what his legal fees to the union have been or would likely be for Lt. Kiernan’s defense. But he did say that he expects the fees would be less than those incurred by the town for hiring Sokoloff Stern to represent them at the hearing, or those by New York City firm Bracewell & Giuliani, which is representing the town in relation to the D.A.’s ongoing investigation into the Street Crime Unit and controversial removal of Police Department records from the department headquarters just before Chief Wilson’s taking over in May 2011.

The Superior Officers Association is the union that upper-level officers—sergeants, lieutenants and captains, but not chiefs—in departments throughout the county belong to, and is independent of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents most rank-and-file cops.

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If we placed unsolicited mail, without postage, in other people's mailboxes, I believe that would be a FEDERAL OFFENSE, punishable by law.
Do Federal Laws not apply to Southampton's Finest for any reason folks might not be aware of?
I don't think we want US Postal Servants issuing traffic tickets or arresting people...
Send whatever you wish, just please use a stamp and stay out of those
mailboxes which aren't yours.
By Hamptonsgal (1), Naples on Sep 6, 12 7:37 AM
The article doesn't state that mailkboxes were stuffed without postage. Is there something you would like to share?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 6, 12 9:23 AM
Suspended by the Police Department and the Town Board and the Police Union wants the tax payers to fund his defense. This is the craziest thing I have ever heard. The arrogance is incredible.
By carson (79), southampton on Sep 6, 12 8:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
You may consider that I said things to you that would get my posting deleted as being obscene. He can ask anyone he wants to attend this function. I can assume you were not invited. And if you were, discard the invite and spend the night at home instead. Alone.
Have a pleasant evening.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Sep 6, 12 9:09 PM
So its a fundraiser for Kiernan or the SOA? Seems Mike Zarro really isn't sure, but thats nothing new, he just needs to check with Tenaglia to see what he wants him to say....why is it someone who makes $139,000 a year needs a fundraiser? Wonder if the opening act will be Marietta and Tenaglia pulling the strings of the puppets of the Republican party...
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Sep 6, 12 9:40 PM
How is it that they rented out the Hampton Bays HS? Maybe I can have my kids communion there come spring. I guess when you have friends in high places any tax payer funded building is up for grabs. They should have had it in Nuzzi's office that's a waste of space anyway.
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Sep 7, 12 8:53 AM
We have an officer on the force who was drunk and killed someone off duty. We have an ordinance inspector arrested for selling cocaine and pills.
We have another inspector accused of pistol whipping his wife with his service revolver
We have various reports of officers and their families having tickets forgiven caught drunk driving and being released.
We have other officers brawling off duty in bars and being promoted.
Now we have a fundraiser in a public school not for a injured ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 7, 12 8:49 PM
4 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By G (342), Southampton on Sep 8, 12 6:46 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By G (342), Southampton on Sep 9, 12 10:00 AM
Isn't there a law about putting signs on every street corner about this fundraiser or is it because they are cops its ignored.....now driving through Hampton Bays I see 2 big billboards at a local "Pub" advertising for this fundraiser for Kiernan......do they really think the public is that stupid?
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Sep 12, 12 10:18 PM
I hear these guys are raising money for troubled cops at a public high school. Great example for our children and which School Board member or School Superintendant allowed this to happen. I hear a public group is now preparing to file a tax payers law suit against the district. These guys are ridiculous I hear that they are having an end of summer LOBSTER DINNER AT DOCKERS on Dune Road at months end for $5000.00. If they need money why the hell would they be having that function. Now we are ...more
By carson (79), southampton on Sep 13, 12 11:14 AM