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Mar 10, 2010 2:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Board silences Westhampton Beach Village attorney

Mar 10, 2010 2:01 PM

Westhampton Beach Village Board members this week effectively silenced Village Attorney Bo Bishop, demanding that he not offer them advice in the public arena—a move Mr. Bishop labeled as “outrageous.”

A walk-on resolution, read by board member Jim Kametler during a meeting held on March 4, and approved by a 3-2 margin, prohibits Mr. Bishop from giving his legal opinion in public. Mr. Kametler and fellow board members Joan Levan and Hank Tucker voted in favor, while Mayor Conrad Teller and Village Trustee Toni-Jo Birk opposed it.

Mr. Bishop, who was clearly outraged by the bill’s passage, blasted Mr. Tucker, Mr. Kametler and Ms. Levan for introducing it, adding that he always conducts himself in a professional manner.

“I resent this resolution,” Mr. Bishop told the three trustees. “This is an outrageous resolution ... I think you should be ashamed.”

Board members are charging that Mr. Bishop gave them bad advice regarding the rules and procedures of the Village Board, more specifically whether or not board members have to right to remove items from the agenda.

Last month, board members tried to strike seven resolutions from the agenda that pertained to the reinstatement of charges, and the holding of disciplinary hearings, for previously suspended Westhampton Beach Police Officers Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane. Mr. Bishop told board members at the time that, in his opinion, they should not strike them from the agenda. A vote was eventually held and the resolutions were defeated.

After silencing Mr. Bishop as their first order of business last week, Mr. Kametler, Mr. Tucker and Ms. Levan were successful in quashing the seven resolutions, all of which were introduced by Mayor Teller.

Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane were suspended by the mayor with pay in October after the Suffolk County Police Internal Affairs Bureau determined that they had lied to superior officers about the circumstances surrounding a fellow officer’s missing handgun. The Village Board later dropped the charges and reinstated them, but Mayor Teller has put them on restrictive desk duty. The officers filed separate notices of claim against the village last week, charging that they were being unfairly treated and punished by village officials.

Mr. Bishop said during last Thursday’s meeting that the board members “have a lot of nerve” for passing the resolution to silence him, adding that he was still going to speak at their meetings.

Mr. Bishop, who has served as the village attorney since 2006, on Tuesday declined to comment on whether or not he will continue serving in that capacity.

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... they have no idea what they are doing. No concept of Open Meetings law, no concept of executive session and how to use it to their advantage, do not understand what they read in public, and , above all , are exposing themselves and the village to litigation.

Makes for riveting "TV" watching - can't decide whether it is comedy or tragedy.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Mar 11, 10 4:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
These Village Trustees are destroying the image of the Village and causing financial harm. As an outsider, not a resident of the Village, I cannot understand why nothing is done by the residents. Someone needs to bring this to the attention of the NYS Attorney General. It has gone beyond politics and the taxpayers are definately being hurt. Maybe Mr. Bishop needs to do this before it is too late.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 11, 10 6:49 PM
A thought. Have you considered that maybe you don't have all of the facts in regard to this case? And, maybe, that the absence of facts may be coloring your perception?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 11, 10 9:55 PM
read on the beach blog...I don't think I'm wrong. I wish I was.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 11, 10 10:58 PM
I didn't realize the beach blog was gospel. Thanks for he info.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 12, 10 12:14 PM
Nothing is "gospel," but the Beach Blogger gets a lot more information out than the newspaper. I just wish he'd pay more attention to Southampton Town.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Mar 12, 10 12:21 PM
Sounds like the Village is imploding. Can't be good for the residents.
By BigL11946 (29), Hampton Bays on Mar 12, 10 7:50 AM
I wonder if the triumvirate read these pages. In the article about the village board that preceded this one, I asked if Bo Bishop had an opinion about the legality of the Mayor and Chief of Police refusing an order from a majority of the board. Then, at the next meeting, the junta gagged him.

Probably not, nobody reads this stuff who doesn't write it.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 12, 10 10:49 AM
Don't give yourself so much credit.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 12, 10 12:15 PM
As a resident of the village, my issue is that we now have 2 officers that are useless to the village. They were found guilty and never punished. Not to mention that they lied to investigators. As police officers, whatever they do from now on comes into question. Can you imagine one of these officers having to testify as officers in court for any arrest they make? Any defense attorney would have a field day with that. They are officially useless as police officers anymore.
By freelance (21), Westhampton Beach on Mar 12, 10 12:34 PM
Not only are the 2 officers useless but the board and the whole police force is useless.It is a shame what is going on in this village.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Mar 12, 10 12:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
What were they found guilty of?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 12, 10 1:08 PM
My understanding is that they haven't been found "guilty" of anything, nor have they been cleared if the charges preferred by the Chief of Police following receipt of the Suffolk County Police Internal Affairs report on their six month investigation.

So the two suspended officers are in some sort of legal limbo, charged but neither exonerated or convicted, while certain members of their Village Board sit on their thumbs hoping it will all just go away.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Mar 12, 10 3:46 PM
Frank Wheeler:
The first sentence of your last post is true. The rest would be true, but for the fact that in our society you are innocent until proven rather than guilty until proven innocent, regardless of the nature of the charges.
Maybe, just maybe, the Village Board has more information than the rest of us, and this has caused a majority of The Board to have arrived at a conclusion that no charges are warranted, therefore, a hearing is unnecessary.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 12, 10 9:02 PM
I should have put the word " guilty" in between proven and and rather in the second sentence of my last post, sorry for any confusion.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 12, 10 9:06 PM
FIrst, a technical question - is "striking" the resolutions (which Bishop said is impermissible) the same as "quashing" them (which is apparently what the Board did)?

Second, what's the point in silencing him if you've got a 3-2 majority and plan to ignore his advice and quash the resolutions anyway? If these three truly think he's giving the Board "bad" advice, it makes no sense to silence him at the hearings but allow him to continue as Village Attorney - put your money where you mouth ...more
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on Mar 12, 10 6:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lets hope the trustees have more information than the rest of us. Can they manage to do anything with it besides blame the mayor and Mr. Bishop? It's obvious who has the voting power here but they need to move on.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Mar 13, 10 11:57 AM
I forgot Chief Ray Dean. He takes alot of blame too. Since these 3 village trustees have the voting power why dont they fire Mr. Bishop and Chief Dean? It would be better than writting those ridiculous resolutions that basicly stiffels the two of them. It gives the impression that the village is on the verge of marshall law.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Mar 13, 10 12:06 PM
Don't you think they would if they could!?!

I'm not up on current NYS Village Law since the abortive Pine Valley experiment (where we never had a Village Police Department), but I think the appointment of the Village Attorney is at the sole discretion of the Mayor.

As for the Police Chief, in the case of Westhampton Beach, I think he's under contract.

Some of this -- and I'm relying on stories on 27East and items by the Beach Blogger as sources of information -- problem ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Mar 13, 10 5:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. Frank Wheeler, if this is your name? Please explain how myself and my fellow workers are a "law unto themselves".

Patrick M. Aube', President
Southampton Town PBA
By pbapres (6), Speonk on Mar 14, 10 1:07 PM
What is the PBA position on this mess involving the two WHB police officers. Maybe you can shed some light on the matter. The continued limbo for the two officers does not seem fair to them or Village. I would think a hearing is the proper judicial way to proceed. Can the officers appeal a decision if it was not in favor of reinstatement?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 14, 10 5:38 PM
Of course it's my name, Officer Aubé -- and has been for almost 54 years!

Your actions and those of your union over the past seven months speak for themselves. The country is in an economic mess, Southampton Town is in an even greater one, and the Southampton Town PBA, like the Edward G. Robinson character in KEY LARGO, "wants more." Never mind where it's going to come from, the PBA wants more!

This is not a knock on the job the police does, it's about our ability to pay for it ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Mar 14, 10 8:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
I dont know Frank Wheeler, I imagine the village attorney is appointed by the board as a whole. As far as the chief, he can be fired if he does not live up to the terms of a contract, but he has.
Its time this board come together and resolve this issue with the police officers and the gun. Who knows? Maybe the lawsuit will go away. But I doubt it.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Mar 14, 10 3:56 PM
if i may,i would like to comment on the fairness of some of the comments pertaining to the chief.first of all,he did as he should have with this incident with the 2 cops. second untill this board interfered he was bringing the pd up to what it should be,it wasn't untill the board started micromanaging him that the pd started having problems again.if you look back you will be able to see when all this upheavel started,the blame should be placed where it belongs.when the board demeans his authority,the ...more
By curious (77), westhampton beach on Mar 15, 10 3:34 PM
The latest letter to the Village trustees from Chief Dean's attorney should shed a lot of light on what is going on here. You can find it at "on the the beach blog." A copy was sent to the the DA's govt. corruption unit. It is about time.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 16, 10 4:57 PM