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Jul 28, 2015 9:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Fire District Rejects Freedom Of Information Act Request

The Hampton Bays Fire District secretary rejected a FOIA request sent certified mail because it was addressed to the Hampton Bays Fire Department, which shares the same address as the fire district. The receipt above shows that the request was signed on July 15.
Jul 29, 2015 9:20 AM

The secretary for the Hampton Bays Fire District on Monday rejected a Freedom of Information Act request filed nearly two weeks earlier by The Press, seeking the minutes of recent fire commissioner meetings, stating that the document is “invalid” based on a technicality.

The FOIA request, sent via certified mail and signed for by a dispatcher with the Hampton Bays Fire Department on July 15—a day after it was mailed and addressed to Hampton Bays Fire District Secretary David Van Scoy—was rejected because it was addressed to the Hampton Bays Fire Department, which shares the same Montauk Highway address, 69 West Montauk Highway, with the fire district.

The request asked Mr. Van Scoy to provide the minutes of meetings from January through June of this year to clarify why fire district commissioners intend to spend up to $300,000 in taxpayer money to acquire land in the fire district. In previous interviews, both Mr. Van Scoy and Hampton Bays Fire Commissioner Rob King have refused to explain why the district wants to buy the property, or to disclose where the property is located, stating that they are not at liberty to do so until a deal is finalized.

“It’s an invalid request, because it came to the department, not district,” said Mr. Van Scoy, who requested that a copy of the certified mail receipt be faxed to him at the district office on Monday. Originally, he had said he was unaware the FOIA request had been sent even though he was alerted of its filing on July 14, the day it was sent via certified mail.

The FOIA request, which was sent to Mr. Van Scoy’s attention at the shared headquarters, was signed for on July 15 by Sarah Brown, a radio dispatcher at the Hampton Bays Fire Department. The Press re-sent its FOIA request on Monday, July 27—also via certified mail—to Mr. Van Scoy’s attention at fire district headquarters.

“It sounds like they are trying to play games with you,” said Bob Freeman, the executive director of the State Committee On Open Government, who previously criticized fire district officials for not disclosing their intentions for the land.

“The government shouldn’t require people to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’ if, in fact, the nature of the request is understood,” added Mr. Freeman. He noted that taxpayer-funded entities, such as fire districts, are supposed to make their records available to the public “whenever or wherever feasible.”

By not honoring the request, Mr. Freeman said fire officials are most likely trying to avoid telling taxpayers how they intend to develop the land.

Brad Pinsky, attorney and business manager for the Bridgehampton Fire District, also noted during an earlier interview that it was odd for the leaders of a taxpayer-funded district to refuse to disclose their intentions with such a large sum of money. He also speculated that Hampton Bays Fire District officials could be seeking land on which to construct some sort of facility, either for training or storage purposes.

Including the main firehouse on West Montauk Highway, the Hampton Bays Fire District now owns three properties in the hamlet, totaling some 9 acres. The other lots include the Ponquogue Avenue property that houses the fire department’s one substation, which opened in 2008 and cost nearly $4 million, and a smaller property that sits across the street from the main firehouse and is currently open space.

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business as usual for this local mafia
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Jul 28, 15 10:53 AM
By MariaSausa (1), Howard Beach, New York on Jul 28, 15 2:06 PM
The town used to do that years ago. Had to rewrite FOILS many times to get them accepted. Southampton Village police also ignore FOILS when they want to do so.
By Crabby (63), Southampton on Jul 28, 15 11:50 AM
I foresee a record turnout of voters in the next fire district elections. Traditionally only those involved in the fire department have been voters. A new impetus has been created for the general public to nominate candidates and become voters.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 28, 15 2:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
The FOIL laws need to be rewritten so that anyone denying a valid FOIL request is personally liable for a $10,000.00 fine on a first offense and $20,000.00 on a second offense with jail time on a third. Are you reading this Fred Thiele?
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jul 28, 15 3:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
No one will ever re-write a law to hold "officials" personally liable for anything. Guess who makes the laws! People who would then be subject to personal liability. Aint going to happen (and frankly, it shouldn't since it would greatly discourage people from seeking office due to the lawsuit culture we have in America)
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 28, 15 7:28 PM
I believe you are correct. It won't happen because we have the inmates running the asylum. Doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jul 29, 15 5:53 PM
Rejecting a foil request from the media is a move only a dishonest group hiding something would do.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 28, 15 5:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Typical.You come to expect this. Looks like people have had enough, it's almost a no show at the carnival tonight. Hard to have a fundraiser when you are playing games with those that you need the support of.
By nytractor (15), hampton bays on Jul 28, 15 9:37 PM
3 members liked this comment
What a frigin joke- do these idiots really think they can keep this a secret?? It's time to disband all volunteer depts and form a town fire department. Hire the volunteers as full or part time employees. Give financial control to the town comptroller. No more hidden purchases, secret bloated accounts, 3 million dollar fire palaces, ridiculous purchases. Get rid of a hundred commissioners and chiefs, take home cars which are used for personal use all over the state. Its over- taxpayers will ...more
By PoliticallyIncorrect (45), earth on Jul 29, 15 8:03 PM
2 members liked this comment
i have a friend who is telling me her siter in law knows the scoop i am working on finding out later today

stay tuned
By Erin 27 E (1281), hampton bays on Jul 30, 15 9:26 AM
Who does Van Scoy thin he is? He works for us, not the other way around. Maybe he has something to hide.
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Jul 30, 15 1:47 PM
what a shame the carnival got rained out, now we will not be ale to buy that 3 million dollar antique fire boat with gold kleets the dept has had their eye on.
By Erin 27 E (1281), hampton bays on Jul 30, 15 6:57 PM
Has anyone ever seen the collection of trucks the district has? It has about 250k in suv's, plus pickup trucks, flatbeds, antique trucks. They have so many vehicles it's insane.
The problem is they have a bunch of dopey red neck bullies running the district. When you volunteer for something it's about service to your community not yourself!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 30, 15 9:08 PM
The whole thing is so disgusting. we demand transparency from our local government and organizations otherwise we will have no choice but to clean house. hope your listening
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Jul 31, 15 2:12 PM
It's more than time to put the HBFD"s books under a microscope. The residents would be amazed at the expenditures.
By G (342), Southampton on Jul 31, 15 5:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
It seems a lot of us have been fed up with this Local Yokel BS for a long time, Just like the way the owners of the diner thought they could disrespect the community and get away with anything, It seems HBFD has reached a point were the folks are fed up with there conduct, guess this was just the last straw for this good old boy network.

By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Jul 31, 15 9:06 PM
Wow! They must have had a lucrative Memorial Day/ 4th of July boot-collection. As if traffic wasn't bad enough through town, without this nonsense.
Last time I looked, the (volunteer) HBFD portion of my tax bill was about 50% more than the potion for the (paid) SHPD. I have never understood this, and now not sharing their intentions with the taxpayers is pretty shameful.
By sparkhampton (27), Hampton Bays on Jul 31, 15 8:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
I want a new 4 wheel drive truck so I think I will stand out in front of Slo Jacks tomorrow with an old boot all day clogging traffic up for a mile.
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Jul 31, 15 8:55 PM
Wheres Ana Throne Holst in this whole thing? Better yet wheres the rest of the board? We are fresh out of real leaders just bs artists.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 1, 15 6:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'll bet a chunk of change that land the dept so secretly covets is owned by one of their own who stands to make a big buck on the deal….just sayin'
By fourteenwest (4), sag harbor on Aug 3, 15 9:40 AM
1 member liked this comment

The Comptrollers recent report was a snap shop of how nepotism is a SOP, the bookkeeper is the wife of one of the commissioners and earns $60k per year and benefits ( I assume), East Quogue and SH Village use a per diem who in both districts makes a hourly wage and maybe 20 hours a week. As an aside was the monstrosity on Ponquogue really needed?
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on Aug 3, 15 6:46 PM
Everyone needs to start voting NO. Every vote held is always an increased budget. Did they really need another multi-million dollar firehouse south of the tracks? Riverhead town did the SAME thing when they held a vote to build their new firehouse. They stapled a small sign to a pole saying vote tonight and told only supporters to come vote yes. The library vote is comming up soon. Please be sure to vote NO. Unless of course you are in favor of another tax increase!!!
By unjustifiedjustice2 (35), Hampton bays on Aug 6, 15 9:48 AM
1 member liked this comment