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Mar 31, 2010 1:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach mayor is poised to appoint new village attorney

Mar 31, 2010 1:30 PM

Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Conrad Teller has someone in mind to replace former Village Attorney Bo Bishop, who abruptly resigned last week, though the mayor originally said he was not going to reveal his decision until tonight’s board meeting.

But on Wednesday morning, Village Board member Joan Levan said Mayor Teller plans to appoint Richard Haefeli, who has a law practice in Westhampton Beach and served as village attorney three times in the past: in the early 1980s, from 1992 to 1996, and again from 1998 to 2006.

The mayor, who declined to name his selection last week, confirmed Wednesday that he intends to appoint Mr. Haefeli.

Mr. Haefeli could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mayor Teller does not need the Village Board to sign off on the appointment, as Mr. Haefeli will be filling an unexpired term. Mr. Bishop’s term was set to end on June 30.

There will not be a formal vote on the resolution to appoint Mr. Haefeli, though the measure will be on the agenda during the next Village Board meeting set for tonight, April 1, according to Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis.

Mr. Bishop, who was appointed village attorney in July 2006, tendered his resignation on March 23. He said last week that recent actions of board members made him unable to represent them, and declined to elaborate further.

Three board members—Hank Tucker, Jim Kametler and Ms. Levan—voted last month to ban Mr. Bishop from giving his legal advice in public.

Ms. Levan this week declined to comment on Mr. Bishop’s reason for leaving, stating that it was his decision.

“That’s what he chose to do,” Mr. Tucker added. “I wish him good luck.”

As for the mayor’s decision to tap Mr. Haefeli, Ms. Levan said that he has the necessary experience to do the job. She also pointed out that the village cannot function without a village attorney, and that the his term lasts for only three months. The Village Board appoints a village attorney during its annual organizational meeting in early July.

Mayor Teller described Mr. Bishop as a loyal and hard-working attorney. “I’m very sad to see him go,” he said. “His legal work was excellent.”

The village attorney also serves the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals, Architectural Review Board and Planning Board. Mr. Bishop earned $67,600 a year in the post.

Mr. Bishop will continue to represent the village for an Article 78 proceeding involving the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals. Barbara Steinschneider sued the zoning board after it denied her the necessary variances to expand, renovate the first floor and change the roof design of her Dune Road home. The zoning board denied her application on February 18.

Additionally, Mr. Bishop was appointed in December to represent the village in another Article 78 proceeding involving a rejected application to renovate the North Mall on Old Riverhead Road. Mr. Bishop said that case is just about concluded.

Winhaven Reality, the owners of the North Mall, filed an appeal in November, after the village’s zoning board did not approve its application to construct a 13,946-square-foot addition and complete other renovations. The zoning board previously ruled that the application does not include enough parking to accommodate the proposed renovations.

As for Mr. Bishop, he said he plans to build his Westhampton Beach practice, which specializes in zoning, real estate, personal injury and family law, among other areas of law.

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