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Feb 3, 2010 2:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach mayor plans to stick to his guns regarding two Village Police officers

Feb 3, 2010 2:25 PM

Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said this week that he’s not giving up on his effort to hold disciplinary hearings for two previously suspended Village Police officers and will keep reintroducing measures to press the board to act on it.

The mayor is charging that his fellow Village Board members violated a section of the rules and regulations of the Westhampton Beach Police Department, which dates back to 1964, by dropping charges previously leveled against two police officers without first holding disciplinary hearings. The rule is a police department regulation and not a village law, according to Westhampton Beach Village attorney Bo Bishop.

Mayor Teller said after last week’s work session, held on January 27, that he plans to keep including the resolutions on the Village Board agenda “until someone tells me I’m wrong or they’re wrong. It’s a complicated kind of a scenario.”

He also informed his fellow board members, three of whom walked out of the January 7 board meeting in protest after learning that the mayor had added the resolutions to the agenda only hours earlier, that the documents will be on the agenda at their next meeting scheduled for today, Thursday, February 4, at 7 p.m.

Mayor Teller said the trustees were wrong to force Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean to withdraw disciplinary charges and refuse to hold hearings for Village Police Officers Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane. Both were suspended with pay in October by the mayor after a Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau report concluded that they had lied to superior officers during an investigation surrounding a fellow officer’s missing handgun.

The Village Board voted to drop the charges and ordered the officers back to work in December, after Chief Dean served Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane with the disciplinary charges, according to Mayor Teller.

During the work session, Mayor Teller cited Section 30 of the rules and regulations of the Westhampton Beach Police Department. It states that if the chief of police or a superior officer concludes that an officer is found to be incompetent or engages in any misconduct, he or she “shall be subject to disciplinary action by the Village Board of Trustees, after a hearing upon written stated charges.”

Mayor Teller said he interpreted that to mean that once officers are served with charges, disciplinary hearings must be held. He explained that that opinion was based on information he received from Vincent Toomey, a labor attorney from New Hyde Park. Mayor Teller said he consulted with Mr. Toomey privately and paid the consultation fee out of his own pocket.

Richard Zuckerman, a lawyer with Lamb & Barnosky LLP in Melville and the labor attorney for Westhampton Beach Village, declined to offer his interpretation of the police department rule when reached earlier this week.

“I do not provide legal advice in public, unless my client directs me to do so,” he said.

Village Board member Joan Levan said during last week’s work session that a decision has already been made on the matter, and that there is no need for the mayor to keep tacking the resolutions onto the agenda.

“We already handled this whole issue. He keeps bringing it up,” said Ms. Levan, who was one of the three trustees who left last month’s scheduled board meeting, forcing it to be rescheduled. “Does he have other information we don’t know?”

Board member Hank Tucker who, along with member Jim Kametler also vacated Village Hall after learning of the mayor’s plan last month, said that board members dropped the charges on December 2, and ordered the two officers back to work, based on legal advice given to them by Mr. Zuckerman during an executive session held earlier that day.

“We did it all based on what our attorney said at that time,” Mr. Tucker said.

Mayor Teller said that he is aware that the majority of the board disagrees on how to handle the two police officers. Still, he said he plans to keep introducing the resolutions until they are approved.

“I don’t think it’s been resolved correctly,” he said of the situation. “I think the resolution they utilized is wrong. It was insufficient information retained [from the labor attorney],” he said, referring to Mr. Zuckerman.

The resolutions that are going to be on Thursday’s agenda are the same ones that prompted a walk-out by Ms. Levan, Mr. Kametler and Mr. Tucker on January 7. Since there was no quorum to hold a meeting that night, a makeup meeting had to be held on January 12.

At that meeting, Mayor Teller again tried to introduce the resolutions, including one that attempted to reinstate charges that were dropped against Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane. The measure failed by a 3-2 margin as only Mayor Teller and Village Board member Toni-Jo Birk voted in favor of adding them to the agenda.

Two of the resolutions would have reversed the previous decision to drop disciplinary charges against the officers and a separate vote that reinstated them. A third resolution sought to resuspend Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane, while another, which did not appear on the agenda until the work session on January 27, would have authorized a hearing to discuss the written charges. Two other resolutions would have appointed an officer to conduct a disciplinary hearing while another would have approved the hiring of a stenographer for a disciplinary hearing.

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Mr. Chairman-Quiogue abstains.
By OnQuiogue (5), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 1:40 PM
Regulations by the Police Chief (in this case a Police Chief from back in 1964) are offered to dictate to the Trustees, who by law are the Commissioners of Police, how the Trustees are to handle a disciplinary case.

Somebody has it backwards.

Regulations are serve the purpose to put into effect what the Trustees want to have done. The regulations do not trump the State Legislature which granted this authority to the Trustees to act as the Commissioners of Police. They do not ...more
Feb 4, 10 2:42 PM appended by Publius
From NY State Village Law section 8-804 "The board of trustees or municipal board shall have power and is authorized to adopt and make rules and regulations for the examination, hearing, investigation and determination of charges, made or preferred against any member or members of such police force or department. Except as otherwise provided, no member or members of such police force or department shall be fined, reprimanded, suspended, removed or dismissed until written charges shall have been examined, heard and investigated in such manner or procedure, practice, examination and investigation as the board may by rules and regulations from time to time prescribe."
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 2:42 PM
SHP: "stick to his guns"

Hee Haw! Not content with editorializing in its headlines, the Press now makes little jokes.

Say, Pubes -- where are you getting your "legal" information from?

If regulations have been adopted in 1964, or 1934 even, and they have not been supplanted by revised or updated regulations, are they not valid and binding?

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 4, 10 3:48 PM

There is a hierarchy of law.

In New York State supremacy is given to the State Constitution, followed laws enacted by the State Legislature, followed by local laws enacted by local government.

Subordinate to such laws are regulations that are promulgated to give effect to the laws that have been made by the legislative bodies.

Here, you don't even have regulations adopted by the Trustees (see the Westhampton Beach Village Code); and if there was such ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 4:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good now maybe he will show up for meetings.
Maybe he can all so get ride of "JIM THE GUN"
Who thinks he is the town tuff guy.
This board and the police is the JOKE of the Hamptons
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 4:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Conrad Teller - that says it all!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Feb 4, 10 4:32 PM
Nice picture of "THE BUM JIM THE GUN"
He looks like he is looking to call someone else out
Someday he will play with the wrong person and get his lites put out.
I am sure that there are a few who would love to do it
Than he would have a reason to go cry to the PD like a little girl.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 4:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mr. Teller has extensive experience in law enforcement, and certainly would add tremendous wisdom to this matter. The hearings should go forward.
By mariner (8), Southampton on Feb 4, 10 5:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
His extensive experience includes costing the Village about 1 Million dollars on the Verbeek matter in the mid 90's.

He was stubborn then, stubborn now, to a fault.

He has no wisdom, he is no genius
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 4, 10 7:24 PM
Jeeez. Struck a nerve there, eh, Puby?

You imply that a man with decades of experience in law enforcement administration would not know what's best in this situation. You choose to instead rely on the judgment of a babbling cheesecake maker, a village beautifier with a ‘tude, and a disgraced former cop with the IQ of a three toed sloth, all while vehemently supporting two corrupt Police Officers who were found guilty of lying in an investigation conducted by an independent and accredited ...more
By Pedro Salazar (22), Center Moriches on Feb 5, 10 3:13 AM
3 members liked this comment
Pedro, this Police Department has never functioned properly. Not when Teller was the Chief, and not with Dean as the Chief of Police.

I do not rely upon any of the Trustees, or the Chief or the Mayor to make my assessment.

No one was "found guilty" of anything. That is defamatory and you are plainly attempting to mislead anyone who might read these posts.

We have a Chief of Police who got a sweetheart contract years ago from his buddies, the then mayor Strebel and ...more
Feb 5, 10 9:38 AM appended by Publius
Pedro, don't insult the intelligence of the three toed sloth.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 5, 10 9:38 AM
Hey folks, is all this really necessary. Does this tiny Village really need it's own PD? Did you ever count all the police vehicles behind the Village hall? It's not my dime but something just seems out of balance here.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 4, 10 7:41 PM
2 members liked this comment
You are 1000% right . We do not need the police force which is over 28% of our taxes. They are over paid and do NOTHING
We all so do not need this so-called board that does not show up for meeting
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 5, 10 11:09 AM
Rules dating back to 1964???...I guess the older the better!
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 5, 10 2:48 PM
Open message to the Public Servants engaged in blocking a necessary hearing. We don't CARE if your initial labor lawyer advice was wrong.
We are angry and appalled at your lack of action. You are being compensated to manage village affairs. You are instead OBSTRUCTING village business and costing us a fortune.You made a boner of a mistake blocking the resolutions. Man up. We all know it. No amount of blabblabblabbing is going to change that.
The Mayor IS correct.This can't be cleaned up ...more
By Jean (79), whb on Feb 5, 10 3:06 PM
Kudos: Thanks for the journalist's more neutral take on this mess.
Can't wait for the videotape--this one is going to be a beaut--
Don't miss "Reality TV."
By Jean (79), whb on Feb 5, 10 3:21 PM
What are you talking about??
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 5, 10 3:27 PM
Too much J2 jet fuel in the WHB drinking water IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 5, 10 6:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 6, 10 11:54 PM
not from your area............nevertheless it looks like alot of anger over there in westhampton.....why are you putting up with it.............do you complainers vote....and i don't mean it in a bad way........
By paulgabe1 (29), riverhead on Feb 7, 10 4:45 PM
Sure we vote but its the same old story.They say one thing and do another.Than its all smoke and mirrors.The Board and the police force has to GO
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 7, 10 7:22 PM
When they show the Westhampton Beach board meetings on their website, which one in the audience is you, SJD?

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 8, 10 10:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 8, 10 12:29 PM
I would hope that the good people of this beautiful little village would petition the Suffolk County DA to investigate this Police disciplinary matter and the behavior of the Trustees. From the outside it appears that something is very wrong. People didn't think Greenport would survive without a PD but it survived.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 7, 10 8:57 PM
Interesting point nellie, I wonder how the implication of your last sentence would affect property values.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 7, 10 10:18 PM
Property values would go UP because taxes and potential civil liability would go down. (It has to be cheaper to run a couple of sector cars, than to pay for a Chief of P, and other ranking officers in the village PD.)

Lets not pretend their would be an absence of police surveillance protecting the village. The village would contract with another municipality, Southampton Town or Quogue.

Maybe it would be the first time there would be a presence of of police surveillance protecting ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 8, 10 7:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
All you have to do is look at the police reports
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Feb 8, 10 12:31 PM
Last look before the RE market tanked was that Greenport property values went up. Of course, unlike here, you would need to factor in a proactive local govt. willing to improve the village.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 8, 10 2:49 PM
And the Guardian Angels patrolling the streets in Greenport are certainly a positive for the village as well. Perhaps they would be willing to come to WHB?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 8, 10 8:33 PM
That is a silly remark. Greenport had crime problems both with and without its PD. If you are suggesting the self promoting posse of red berets that appeared in Greenport somehow advances your defense of the WHB PD,

I will leave it to others who read these posts to decide whether that argument has any validity at all. It could be a good measure of intelligence, or lack of it.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Feb 8, 10 9:34 PM
How do you derive any "defense of the WHB PD" from my post? I merely asked a question is response to nellie's post.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 8, 10 10:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Uncle Jesse (3), Southampton on Feb 8, 10 12:24 PM
Hey, you missed Joan's afghan!
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Feb 9, 10 12:08 PM
What is police surveillance?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Feb 8, 10 4:47 PM
Hiding in the bushes on Route 104 in Quogue.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 9, 10 12:06 AM
Does anyone know how many registered voters there are in Westhampton Beach.

It only takes a petition with 10% of the voters to get a referendum on the ballot to dissolve the WHB-PD and the Town, for that matter
By TIRED (13), whb on Feb 10, 10 9:41 PM