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Mar 30, 2010 8:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Mayor continues to push for secondary employment regulations

Mar 30, 2010 8:01 PM

In an about-face, Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson has reinstituted a policy that requires police officers to fill out forms documenting their secondary employment, a bone of contention between him and the Village Board.

Chief Wilson, however, said that he significantly reduced the amount of information police officers have to provide. Department members no longer must include the identity or phone number of their employer, where they will be working, the hours per week they will spend on the side job, or whether a professional license is required for the work.

Chief Wilson said that he came to this decision following a discussion at the March 23 Southampton Village Board work session. “The Village Board felt that it was important to still have use of that paperwork,” he said. “We felt it was important to have that avenue available to us to stay current on what personnel are doing.”

In March, Chief Wilson said he was getting rid of guidelines governing secondary employment, and would have officers abide only by broader state and federal rules, some of which prohibit officers from selling alcohol, engaging in certain types of campaign work, and holding a license from the state racing and wagering board. The chief then amended his decision, stating that he would just abolish the form he kept in officers’ personnel files.

But Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley and some members of the Village Board said that the decision to eliminate the form was not the best way to handle the situation, which arose following Freedom of Information Law requests from The Southampton Press and former village police officer Chris Broich.

Mayor Epley said Monday evening that he and Chief Wilson had a “long conversation” about the decision to no longer require officers to fill out forms on their second jobs. Mr. Epley said he told the chief that his decision to do away with the forms made it look like “there’s something to hide.”

“In reality, there’s nothing to hide here,” Mr. Epley said. “The guys all have the right to do secondary employment, and this is just to make sure they know the rules associated with it.”

Chief Wilson said that the new form strikes a good balance between allowing the department to closely watch its personnel—making sure that they are not violating rules governing secondary employment—and protecting private information.

The chief had fought recent FOIL requests seeking information contained on the forms, saying releasing the information would violate officers’ privacy. Mr. Broich, and then The Press, sought documentation of requests filed by officers seeking permission to hold second jobs, plus approvals and denials for secondary employment, from 2006 through 2009.

An opinion on the matter from Bob Freeman, the executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, stated that the police chief is required to release the forms, but could redact certain information, such as the name and location of the side work. The Press finally was given the paperwork for permits approved for

seven

officers, all of whom earn more than $70,000 and some of whom take home more than $100,000. The information provided was limited to 2008 and later, the time when Chief Wilson instituted the reporting requirement.

Secondary employment for police officers can be a hot-button topic for a variety of reasons, including scheduling issues and ethical dilemmas that can result from serving both as a law enforcement officer and in another capacity. Chief Wilson acknowledged that there are situations—such as when an officer observes illegal behavior while, for example, serving as private security for an event or client—when the officer has to decide to either “remove himself from the situation or take action.”

“It’s a contentious topic, and there’s a lot of scrutiny placed there, because people are paid with taxpayer funds,” he said.

Even after the potential change, and then reversal, in the department’s internal orders, Chief Wilson said that Southampton Village has had the most stringent and comprehensive guidelines of all the police departments on the East End regarding secondary employment.

FOIL requests identical to the one placed in Southampton Village in January were filed with all East End departments in March.

Quogue Village Police Department is another department that keeps permits for secondary employment for officers on file. Lieutenant Chris Isola, who handles press inquiries for the department, explained that officers must state the hours per week the side job requires and the duties and location of the employment. Until two years ago, officers could put the information in a memo, Lt. Isola said.

Lt. Isola was unable to provide copies of the filed permits before publication. He said that he was discussing the issue with legal counsel, as the permits are in officers’ personnel files, which are confidential.

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Aprils Fool's !

Is there a typographical error or two in this sentence from above?

"Department members no longer must include . . . the hours per week they will spend on the side job, or whether a professional license is required for the work."

So an officer could work 100 extra hours per week as a licensed private investigator, and there would be no paperwork required on this?

Has Mr. DePetris signed off on the details of this "second job" paperwork?

Is ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 2, 10 4:56 PM