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Apr 10, 2013 11:09 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Sag Harbor Mayor, Police Chief Clash Over Proposed Officer Layoff

Apr 10, 2013 11:18 AM

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano is urging the village to reconsider its plan to cut a police officer out of the 2013-14 budget, but Mayor Brian Gilbride is holding firm, citing unsustainable costs in the department.

The plan to lay off one officer—as well as not replacing a second officer who transferred out last fall—is less drastic than the mayor’s earlier idea of halving the small department and bringing in an outside agency to help patrol, but it remains a source of friction.

Mr. Gilbride and Chief Fabiano clashed over the issue at a budget hearing last Wednesday, April 3, at times talking over one another, raising their voices, and taking jabs at each other. Ultimately, the mayor announced that he would resume the discussion in the chief’s office at 9 a.m. the next day.

This week, however, the chief said that talk went “nowhere,” and the mayor said “it didn’t go too well.”

Chief Fabiano reappeared before the board at a regular Village Board meeting on Tuesday, April 9, again pushing to save one of his officer’s jobs. Again, the mayor pointed to escalating costs.

Public safety in Sag Harbor’s proposed spending plan is set to drop from about $2.6 million this year to $2.3 million next year. The total police line item is set to drop from approximately $2 million this year to $1.7 million next year. Benefits for police department employees are not included in that figure, but are grouped with other village employees in the general budget.

The force currently has 11 officers in addition to the chief. That would drop to 10 under the mayor’s proposal. The village pays an average annual compensation of $183,884 per officer, including benefits. According to the current year’s budget, the average base salary for an officer is roughly $104,000. Chief Fabiano, the top earner, makes $156,560 in base salary and $260,154 including benefits.

The village budget, which totals nearly $8.8 million in its proposed form, must be adopted by May 1. This total includes an $8.3 million general fund and a $519,000 sewer fund.

In the background, meanwhile, is an unresolved contract with the police union, now in arbitration, and the run-up to a June 18 election, in which Mr. Gilbride is seeking another term in what has so far shaped up to be a fierce four-way race.

“As these numbers continue to go, it’s unsustainable in Sag Harbor at these rates,” Mr. Gilbride said. “I don’t say this slightly. I don’t like being put in this position, but going back two years, with zeroes put in there for raises, the total compensation packages increased 21 percent.”

“I’m aware of the economic times that we’re in, but they should never interfere with providing adequate police coverage, not only for the residents of Sag Harbor but also for those children who attend our schools and those who enjoy our village,” the chief said, adding that two studies by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice have shown Sag Harbor’s force to be currently understaffed. He also said he would need more overtime and part-time employees should an additional officer be cut, and suggested the village could go above the 2-percent tax levy cap.

While the two sides stuck to their guns, they also, at the budget hearing, traded barbs.

When the chief talked about trying to find some money elsewhere in order to save the officer’s job, he briefly mentioned pulling a number “out of a hat.”

“Knock that off,” the mayor responded. “Let’s just talk professional to the board, all right?”

“I said my budget,” the chief replied.

“You said pulling a rabbit out of a hat is what you said,” Mr. Gilbride continued. “I’m telling you, you’re not a funny guy, Tom.”

“You know, I’m not here to be funny, Brian. I’m here to save someone’s job. I’m here to save one of those guys back there, their job here, OK?” Chief Fabiano said, referring to several officers in attendance.

The two also had testy exchanges about the chief asking to move a previous budget workshop because he was on vacation, among other things.

“Let’s you and I meet tomorrow instead of all this posturing in public,” Mr. Gilbride said at one point. “Yeah, it’s posturing.”

Chief Fabiano, his voice rising, said, “No, it’s not, Brian, stop saying that. I have a right to be here and I have the right to stand up for my department, OK? I’m a taxpayer in the village, so I can stay here.”

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Sag Harbor had a fine Police Department. They do a great job! They also
have a great Chief of Police. The Mayor and the Sag Harbor Village Board
are being short sighted. Summer is coming. We all know what that is like in
Sag Harbor. The Village Board should give the Police Department the requisite resources for them to continue to do the proper job. Stop the politics
Mayor. Get on with the business at hand. The cost of one officer isn't going to make a large difference ...more
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Apr 10, 13 1:03 PM
That village board is a joke, almost as big a joke as Southampton Town's. They voted today unanimously to adopt the budget and layoff one police officer. That police officer left another job to protect Sag Harbor and now hes being shunned. Shame on the Village Board and most of all Kevin Duchemin who being a cop himself voted for it, good luck facing your peers
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Apr 18, 13 1:45 PM