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Apr 4, 2012 10:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Police Chief May Face New Challenge

Apr 4, 2012 11:56 AM

Despite a host of civil service protections that make it difficult to oust a police chief from his post, speculation about an easier way for the Southampton Town Board to get rid of the town’s top cop, if members desired, surfaced in Town Hall last week.

Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. has been on the job for less than a year, but there have reportedly been at least two efforts to force him out: a buyout offer, and an alleged political maneuver offered to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Under Civil Service Law, police chiefs can be removed only if they are found guilty of formal charges of misconduct or incompetence following a hearing. But under a decades-old provision of town code that allows the Town Board to force police officers who have worked 20 years or more to retire, the majority of the board could vote to force the chief to retire.

Ironically, the provision, which has been on the books but barely utilized for decades, was used by Ms. Throne-Holst last year to force some higher-ranking police officers out to help balance the budget.

Although he only took the helm of the Town Police on May 16, 2011, Chief Wilson has accumulated nearly 27 years of police service, having transferred to the town from the Southampton Village Police Department, where he started his law enforcement career and eventually became chief.

Ms. Throne-Holst, who said she wants to keep Chief Wilson on the job, said this week that talk about using the retirement provision prompted her to ask Vincent Toomey, the town’s labor attorney, on Friday whether such a move would be possible. She said he responded that the board could, in fact, use the provision to terminate the chief at will without proving cause. Mr. Toomey did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

The supervisor said on Tuesday she does not know if the board would take this route. “Certainly not on my behalf, no,” she said. “I want to see him there.”

The rest of the board—Democrat Bridget Fleming, Republicans Chris Nuzzi and Christine Scalera, and Conservative Jim Malone—did not return calls this week.

Meanwhile, Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Tim O’Flaherty said on Monday that his union has retained of the legal services of New York law firm Leeds, Morelli and Brown, which is preparing a lawsuit against the town and certain Town Board members to address what the union claims are civil rights violations concerning the police department—and one aspect of the suit involves the forced retirement policy, commonly referred to as the “20-and-out” provision.

“We think it’s discriminatory,” Officer O’Flaherty said. “That’s why we’re retaining counsel. We’re the only ones out of 500 agencies that have that, and it’s from 1971, so we’re going to address that and see where it takes us. It’s a state law. We’re the only department that has it. We don’t feel it’s fair, but it is the law, and we’re seeing what we can legally do to fight that.”

The suit will also address the town’s failure to respond within the time frame allowed by the union’s collective bargaining agreement to a union request for its members to view their personnel records, he said.

Last week, it was revealed that at least two attempts were made over the winter to get rid of Chief Wilson—one a financial incentive of an undisclosed amount offered to him should he leave, and the other involving an intermediary said to be acting on the GOP’s behalf suggesting to the supervisor a vote swap to reappoint then-Town Comptroller Tamara Wright in exchange for kicking out Chief Wilson. In addition, the Town Board has also not given the chief a contract.

Last spring, around the time of Chief Wilson’s hiring, the state repealed a section of the general municipal law that allowed for automatic pay-raise provisions for police chiefs. The change was a “mandate-relief initiative” that was part of a larger piece of legislation that enacted the 2-percent tax levy cap, according to State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a former Southampton Town supervisor.

Under the old law, now repealed, whenever the highest officer in the police union—usually the senior-most officer beneath the chief—would get a pay raise, the chief would get a raise of the same dollar amount.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the timing of the repeal and the chief’s appointment led to some initial confusion about what the law change meant. “Giving him a contract, then, just got, a little bit, in my mind, only temporarily delayed, as we were sorting out the implications of what that repeal was,” she said. “In the meantime, close to a year has now passed, and he does not have a contract, and it’s certainly my hope that we move forward with that and he be given a contract like he should.”

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Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle

(Rome is burning by the way!)
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Apr 6, 12 7:14 PM
Wilson's safe. My guess is, the 20 and out law won't stand up in court. That argument that the police are the only agency saddled with it sounds pretty strong, and it should go down.

BTW, before all the dittoheads start piling on the PBA for crying about the law now when they didn't complain about it being used against the senior officers union last year -- remember, it was the PBA's givebacks that spared the department any forced retirements last year.

Wilson's safe, and he ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Apr 7, 12 9:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
Seems like a witch hunt, politicians should be very careful....things may backfire and then the spotlight will be on them and not in a good way.....hope the Chief sticks with it, they want him to fold...don't make it that easy for them....they really should watch themselves on TV....pathetic to say the least and an embarrassment that they serve Southampton Town!
By rjhdad (73), southampton on Apr 7, 12 10:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
Again Preston-Scalera has no comment. Seems to me she had plenty to say and was always available when she was running for office. Let's see, she has been in office less than 4 months. As a former Assistant Town Attorney in Brookhaven she must have some working knowledge of the legalities of this issue. Perhaps she just needs more time like in the Comptroller Wright debacle.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Apr 7, 12 1:38 PM
again crusader I commend her for staying out of the rhetoric as well as the rest of the board with the exception of ATH for doing the same!
By sassy (6), new york on Apr 7, 12 8:53 PM
Rhetoric? Let's be realistic, this is Southampton politics with two factions warring over the Chief position. The Republicans on the board don't want the Chief and want to bring in their own person because THEY did not choose him. Same thing happened with the Wright position. It is about power and control, not what is best for the taxpayers of Southampton. Unless this man has committed some form of malfeasance while in his position leave him alone. How about for once these politicians do what ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Apr 8, 12 6:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
Preston-Scalera is waiting for her orders from Malone and Nuzzi. She's their puppet and does as she is instructed. Have you ever seen her vote against what they want. No. It's funny how the funding for the captains position was eliminated from the 2012 budget but Malone and Nuzzi decide that they want a captain and just promote Pearce against the chief and town supervisor's whiches. We can't hire new police officers to protect our coumminity but spend money on a position that is not budgeted for. ...more
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Apr 7, 12 2:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
Because an office holder votes with like minded officials you call her a puppet. What does that make Bridget, a rocket scientist or ATH's puppet?
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on Apr 7, 12 6:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
She's Anna's puppet
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Apr 7, 12 8:10 PM
Tennyson's got it right. Neither Scalera nor Fleming is a puppet, but they each do tend to vote along with the same colleagues. So whatever you call them, we've got 2 factions on the board, what else is new? Question now is, which faction is right on this issue? I think the Nuzzi/Malone/Scalera bunch is wasting their time and our money beating up on Wilson. He won't fold like Wright did. Give it up and let the man do his job.
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Apr 8, 12 4:21 AM
The political wrangling between the Board and Chief of Police is nothing new. In fact, all the sunshine illuminating the back room deals, patronage appointments and other shenanigans is quite refreshing..considering darkness is the standard at Town Hall. Does anyone else think that the document investigation and now trying to rid themselves of Chief Wilson is a tad dubious? Hang in Chief...truth will shine through, Town just needs you to point the spotlight.
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Apr 7, 12 3:20 PM
People making triple figure salaries living in paradise still aren't happy.They always have to keep stirring the pot. I don't get it.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Apr 7, 12 6:46 PM
If you just had money you'd be happy right Tiana? Except you want other people to work for it. Get lost. As for the chief, he's getting his work done like a pro whilst there is a simple cat fight around him. Small fish. Small pond.
By Stephen Maybaline (18), Southampton on Apr 8, 12 7:30 AM
Get lost? That's how you speak to people. I have a feeling you wouldn't talk to me that way face to face. Not that it's any of your concern but I have money and I am happy.It's strange that you would say that I would be happy if other people worked for my money. You know nothing about me yet you make these derogatoryremarks. Seems like you are a pompous fool.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Apr 8, 12 10:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Town of Southampton has hired a chief of police to do a job he was quailfied to do for the village of Southampton. So why not let him do his job! Since he was placed in the position to run the police department as the top administrator, he has been handcuffed by the town board in doing his job. He inherated the staff, the contracts, the budget, and all the other issues. Chief Wilson has not had a chance to make a difference, either for the good or bad for the residents because the board ...more
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Apr 8, 12 7:43 AM
3 members liked this comment
I hope some town board members read the comments listed above, it shows some opinions of the taxpayers that are the only ones being truly effected by the infighting and not allowing Chief Wilson to do his job. Give him a shot to do his job and bring the police department out of the dark ages!! My guess is we should be glad we didn't get the majorities choice for chief especially with the missing paperwork investigation, what else could or would there be? Give the man a shot, he's well respected ...more
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Apr 8, 12 9:53 AM
No surprise here that Chief Wilson is not working out. He was not even in the top three qualified applicants, but as usual, politics get in the way. Never take somone from Southampton village to do a man's job!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Apr 8, 12 1:42 PM
Name the top three applicants.
By Bama-Slama (41), Hampton bays on Apr 8, 12 4:50 PM
"Never take someone from Southampton village to do a man's job!" Walt gets the prize for Stupid Remark Of The Week, and it's only Monday!
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Apr 9, 12 5:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
The Conservative Party put Wilson in by inexplicably instructing "Honest Jim" Malone to vote for him instead of for the Republican choice, and Malone's vote is still essential for getting rid of him. The interesting question is what phenomenon has occurred that could induce the Conservatives to kick Wilson out despite the hidden quid pro quo they received for putting him in.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 8, 12 8:38 PM
Lot of unseemly behaviour on the part of Wilson, and others. To wit, the side businesses some officers have providing security for the well-to-do weekenders. A built-in bias exists as officers have opportunities to interact with wealthy weekenders in the normal course of their duties, and they can be exceptionally lenient enforcing traffic and other laws against them, and engendering goodwill in the process. It has been the source of competetive friction between officers for years. When Wilson ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Apr 8, 12 11:41 PM
Go ahead Chief Wilson, let them have their way, and take that nice retirement, that you were able to "pump up " in your 11 months of frustrated service, then go to the press with all the info, and discipline that should of taken place and the reasons why, that alone would be a Newsday front page article, the town pd would be right back where they started the morale would be down, people running amuck. second largest pd in Suffolk and unfortunately the powers to be will not let you run it as a ...more
By blbandit (21), Southampton on Apr 9, 12 8:47 AM
2 members liked this comment
The Chief will do a great job if you would let him get settled, Chief you will make everyone proud that you are the Chief, go get um
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 9, 12 6:43 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 9, 12 6:44 PM
Hard to see any meat to this article unless Malone's vote is really in play.

On the subject of the "20-year-and-out" proviso in the Town Code, it should be noted that in the four decades since the STPD agreed to "enhanced" (a euphemism for "stupendous") wage, retirement and health insurance benefits in exchange for this requirement, the annual compounding of the "enhancements" has resulted in their currently being paid 4X the average salary in Southampton Town. Now the PBA claims that ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 9, 12 8:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Absolutely...Spot On...!
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on Apr 10, 12 10:51 AM
1) "20 and out" is not in the town code. If you know so much about it, you should be able to figure out where it is.
2) Only deals with a certain section of retirement and not wages, health insurance, or anything else.
3) Has nothing to do with the current pay.
4) The pay of the average police officer in Southampton is not 4X the average salary in Southampton Town. More like 1.3x the average salary. AND please, I would like somebody to challange me on this using "per capita income" so ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Apr 10, 12 4:12 PM
Per capita income is the average amount made by averaging everyone's income together.

Last I heard, it was 26k for Suffolk, and 35k around town. Not sure it that is net, or gross, but it's squat either way.

The formula is simpler than P = I x E.
Apr 10, 12 8:12 PM appended by Mr. Z
Nope, it's definitely a gross calculation, one way or the other.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 10, 12 8:12 PM
to Spinny OHO:

5) Qui tacet consentire videtur
4) Wikipedia (Southampton [town], New York)
3) Rubbish
2) Implicit in the agreement, I would say. However, Town Board stupidity and
pusillanimity is the cause generally if not this agreement specifically.
1) We have been over this ground before. Town code makes retirement
mandatory whereas NYS statute is unspecified.

Nevertheless, your assertion that the PBA will sue the town to death if it tries ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 10, 12 5:16 PM
5) Thats another reason why the PBA will win the court case. For 30 years or so they did not use the "20 and out" rule. In civil service law its called "past practices". In legal it called "Qui tacet consentire videtur" for those not in the know. By not using or addressing the law, they in effect gave up the right to use the law.
4) It only backs up what I previosly said. You may have been confused because statistics are not always what you think they are.
3) Nope. Just a fact
2) Just ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Apr 10, 12 7:54 PM
Actually, it means "silence gives consent". Now, MY take on this, looking at it from the viewpoint of the citizenry of the Town of Southampton is that since the STPD has accepted tens of millions of dollars over the past forty years in the expectation by the Town that its members will retire after twenty years, the STPD is obligated by its silent acceptance of the money to retire as promised since "silence gives consent".

Your take, on the other hand, from the STPD PBA point of view, is ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 11, 12 11:02 PM
Still beating the "Rent-a-cop" horse Hatman? In spite of your tiresome rantings you still seem too intelligent to actually believe a mercenary force is a wise idea, even if it was legal. Oh, and George Zimmerman will not be available to be the chief of your "contract officers" for quite a while - so much for a "first-rate service".
By VOS (1241), WHB on Apr 11, 12 11:30 PM
1 member liked this comment