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Mar 6, 2012 6:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

District Attorney Investigating Reports Of Missing Southampton Town Police Records

Mar 15, 2012 9:00 AM

The Suffolk County district attorney’s office is investigating allegations that documents were improperly destroyed or removed from Southampton Town Police headquarters in Hampton Bays over several days in mid-May, just before a change in police administration.

Town sources with knowledge of the situation said the documents were a variety of police documents, including files detailing internal investigations.

Many officials have been unwilling to comment so far, and those who have offered little insight into the investigation.

“In response to questions about there being rumors of an investigation, it gives me an opportunity to say that there have been inquiries and requests for information,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst confirmed this week, adding, “But whether that has risen to the level of an investigation is information I have not yet been made privy to.” Earlier in the week, she said, “I won’t confirm it, but I won’t deny it.”

Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said, “I cannot confirm or deny district attorney’s office investigations. I’m not privy to them.”

Robert Clifford, a spokesperson for District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, wrote in a recent email, “We don’t confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation.”

But several town sources with knowledge of the situation, speaking on background, confirmed that the D.A.’s office has stepped in to look at reports last year that police documents, perhaps including personnel records, were shredded or removed during the transition from the administration of former Police Chief James Overton to Chief Wilson. At the time, officials at Town Hall were concerned enough about the situation to send an observer to police headquarters; one source said the culling of documents was being conducted by high-ranking police officials.

At least one Town Board member has been interviewed by the D.A.’s office in connection with the probe, sources said this week.

Chief Overton, who led the department for 21 years, retired effective April 16, and was succeeded by Chief Wilson, the former Southampton Village Police chief. Chief Wilson was appointed by the Town Board on May 2 and took command of the department on May 16. During the change in administrations, Captain Anthony Tenaglia, who unsuccessfully sought the position of chief of police, was temporarily in command of the force.

According to sources, the destruction or removal of the documents took place several days before Chief Wilson took command.

Reached at home, Chief Overton this week declined to offer an opinion on the investigation, noting that he was no longer chief in mid-May, when it was alleged that the documents were destroyed or removed. “If there is any investigation, I would let the investigation speak for itself,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

Captain Tenaglia, whose retirement took effect on February 29, said last month he did not know about an investigation. He did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.

Until his retirement, Captain Tenaglia was the president of the Southampton Town Superior Officers Association. The new president is Lieutenant Robert Pearce, another unsuccessful candidate for the chief’s position last spring. Lt. Pearce said this week that he had no knowledge of the investigation, although he did say, regarding police records from the transition, “I believe that everything was referred over to the town clerk’s office, and as far as I know there are no missing documents.”

When asked this week about the normal transfer of police records, Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer said that all town records are turned over to her for storage, but she did not provide specifics as to when police records are typically turned over to her office.

“As far as pending investigations, I would need to inquire about the status of such an investigation to determine whether or not it would be appropriate of me to comment at this time,” she said. “To do otherwise would be inappropriate, in my capacity.”

While Ms. Schermeyer said all town records are maintained by her department, the schedule for when records are sent depends upon the department. “Police department records are a little different in nature, in general, because of the sensitivity of the information,” she said. “Every department has different schedules.”

When asked last month, Councilman Chris Nuzzi said he was not sure what he could divulge regarding the investigation; he said he would consult with his fellow board members to see if there was an official statement, but he did not return subsequent requests for comment. Council members Bridget Fleming and Jim Malone declined to comment; Councilwoman Christine Scalera did not return a request for comment.

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Sure wish there was some "privy".
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Mar 9, 12 10:31 AM
They are probably misplaced. They will turn up someday when no one is looking for them. Kind of like the glasses on your forehead..lol.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Mar 9, 12 11:09 AM
Southamptons Finest.. At work.. We should hire more cops to look for those documents...
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Mar 9, 12 11:45 AM
2 members liked this comment
Huh, last time this happened it was the PBA Head taking the docs out of the Chiefs office safe. I suppose it could be worse - those SHTPD grenade launchers & grenades are all accounted for......right?
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 9, 12 11:52 AM
What else would someone expect from the finest Police Force money can buy.
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Mar 9, 12 1:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well, this does bring Symantec's "lost" smartphone study to mind...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 9, 12 1:50 PM
If only we had not allowed the strength of the STPD to plunge from 99 officers to 95; if only we had invested the requested $$750K (+ + +) in technology upgrades; if only we had not demoralized the rank and file by suggesting that $$150K/yr./cop was a bit high, this unfortunate incident would doubtless not have occurred.

However, now that it has, we can correct all our errors by raising the p.d. budget by $$3M or so - - - or, we could replace the entire apparatus with a sworn contract police ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 9, 12 8:56 PM
4 members liked this comment
that would be in violation of their contract. It stipulates that they are entitled to supper.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Mar 10, 12 8:53 PM
Sounds like maybe there was some "privy" could this be why Tenaglia and Pearce were unsuccessful candidates. Maybe the town board knew alot more than what they led on and wanted a change
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 2:28 PM
Well, I could arrange for the supply of a privy.

For a nominal fee, of course...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 3:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Think maybe this is why Anna Throne-Holst and Bridget Fleming wanted to hold off on appointing Lt. Robt. Pearce captain? Not that Pearce is implicated, but an investigation like this touches on all the brass with access to the records, including him. You don't name a captain with something like that going on. Naturally ATH and Felming couldn't talk about it in the public debate on the appointment, so they got slammed by the dittoheads on 27east for trashing Pearce by innuendo. Bum rap on them, ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Mar 18, 12 4:12 PM
1 member liked this comment