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May 12, 2010 2:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village tables disciplinary hearings again; former police officer blasts mayor, police chief

May 12, 2010 2:24 PM

WESTHAMPTON BEACH—Disciplinary hearings for two Westhampton Beach Village Police officers were put on hold again on Thursday, May 6, when the Village Board tabled the resolutions authorizing them.

At the same meeting, retired Village Police officer Fred Hager blasted Mayor Conrad Teller and Police Chief Ray Dean for how they have handled the situation, and also apparently identified a third village officer who was recently served with disciplinary charges in a separate incident.

Mayor Teller and Chief Dean refused to confirm if Detective Steve Cunneen was served with disciplinary charges, as stated by Mr. Hager during the public participation part of Thursday’s meeting. Last month, the mayor said that a third officer, whom he declined to identify, disobeyed an order, and that the officer later denied the allegation. A resolution to authorize a disciplinary hearing for the officer, who has not been suspended, will be addressed during a special meeting, according to Mayor Teller. As of Tuesday morning, a date had not yet been set for the meeting.

Det. Cunneen, who did not return calls seeking comment, suffered a work-related injury and has worked only two of the 38 days he was scheduled for between March 1 and April 27, taking 31 sick days and five vacation days during that time, according to village records.

On Thursday night, Mr. Hager accused the chief and mayor of trying to destroy the police department and called for them to step down. Mr. Hager also blasted Mayor Teller for serving Det. Cunneen with disciplinary charges because he did not provide the village with medical records to document his line of duty injury.

“It’s not only unwarranted, but will cost the village a fortune,” Mr. Hager said of holding a disciplinary hearing.

Some of Mr. Hager’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Village Attorney Dick Haefeli, who warned him that he needs to show respect when addressing board members, especially the mayor.

Chief Dean and Mayor Teller later dismissed Mr. Hager’s comments. “His comments are not worthy of a response,” Chief Dean said.

Mayor Teller pointed out after the meeting that Mr. Hager was disciplined on many occasions when he was a police officer, including once for sleeping on duty, and retired in 2003 before he was subject to a disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Hager didn’t deny that he was disciplined while he was on the force, but he pointed out that he was never subjected to a disciplinary hearing. He said on Tuesday that the disciplinary charges against three Westhampton Beach Police officers are “embellished, if not fabricated,” and that’s why he decided to speak out at the meeting.

At the same meeting, Westhampton Beach Village Board members tabled seven resolutions that would have authorized disciplinary hearings for Officers Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane, who were suspended in October following a Suffolk County Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau investigation that accused them of lying to superior officers during an investigation of a fellow colleague’s missing weapon. The officers were called back to work in December but have been on restrictive duty ever since.

Board members also tabled four other resolutions requesting that they drop their request for police department records of command discipline, gun ownership, penal law offenses, and records pertaining to audio and video evidence. Those resolutions passed in March.

The motion to table the 11 resolutions were approved by a 3-2 margin, with board members Joan Levan, Jim Kametler and Hank Tucker voting yes, and Mayor Teller and member Toni-Jo Birk opposing.

Mayor Teller said the board had met with its labor attorney, Richard Zuckerman, last month, and he had “fully supported all actions” taken by him to move forward with the disciplinary hearings for Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane. But Mr. Tucker, who will challenge Mayor Teller in next month’s election, said after the meeting that board members are waiting for more information regarding the four resolutions that would provide them access to the police records they are seeking.

“We need more information before we spend what could amount to large sums of taxpayer money,” he said.

But Mayor Teller, not wavering from his position that hearings must be held, said the board is wrong to not authorize the hearings.

“They were wrong when they started it,” he said. “They are still wrong, as far as I am concerned.”

Village resident Victor Levy, nicknaming the current divide on the board the “resolutionary wars,” asked why, after six months, the board has not acted on moving forward with disciplinary hearings despite meeting with legal counsel last month. Mr. Kametler, who is not seeking reelection next month, said there are other options board members have to weigh and suggested that the issue won’t be resolved by June 18, the date of the village election.

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What "more information" could Tucker possible require? Wasn't he one of the ones who pproached Suffolk County PD? Is he saying that he doesn't put any stock in the IA report?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on May 7, 10 5:17 PM
Good-Bye Westhampton Beach Village Police Department.

Perhaps the Village should also disband, and become an unincorporated part of Southampton Town?

You can't make this stuff up!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 10 5:29 PM
"The Death of a Village" by Joan Levan
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 7, 10 6:33 PM
Sadly for the residents of WHB, this crazy Village Board has become the best soap opera west of the canal. It is hard to believe these dysfunctional characters are for real (they sound like fictional characters in a Dan's paper story). When are the good guys going to show up and save Mayor Teller?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 7, 10 8:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why would anyone want to save the Clown Mayor?
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 7, 10 9:15 PM
Just look back over the past 2 years and see what has gone on here.
The over paid police do and solve NOTHING but sleep,hide and lie.
The so-called board is a joke and when they do not get their way they just walk out.
Now we hear of these over paid creeps taking advantage of the system and have the nerve to say "its my personal business", well guess what ... It's ours since we pay you BOZO
Now the chief of police really does not want this to become public.
Why not???
Lets ...more
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 7, 10 9:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
Teller needs to be re-elected if the Village is going to be saved.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 7, 10 10:20 PM
4 members liked this comment
The only way to save this Village is to get ride of this board and police force that are nothing more than a drain.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 8, 10 2:11 AM
SOunds like Greenport all over again. The force should close up shop and let the town do it. For me it was over when the deputy mayor fired a 38 at a raccoon in his backyard. An unlicensed gun owner and no charges were filed. Anyone of us would have been locked up.
Our taxes are high as we have to many layers of government this seems lke a watse of money to those in WHB.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on May 8, 10 6:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Teller was an awesome Chief for both departments, probably should not have dabbled in politics, like BM in East Hampton.. Nice guy, smart, articulate, liked by most.....Does sound like another Greenport PD , heading down the toliet.......and its too bad there are some good guys over there....

By BCHBUM11968 (81), SOUTHAMPTON on May 8, 10 9:50 AM
What more information Indeed! Mayor wanna-be Tucker called for an independent Suffolk County Internal Affairs Investigation respecting a police officers missing firearm. He does so because he did not trust an internal investigation.

An extensive investigation was undertaken, resulting in a confirmation of substantial misconduct against certain officers. Does Tucker and his Board’s cohorts, Levan and Kammetler proceed to conduct a hearing that would either clear the names of the officers ...more
By Alterius (19), Westhampton Beach on May 8, 10 10:45 AM
Kammetler and Hager should have faced charges and if they did we would not be hearing them now
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 8, 10 8:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
This would make great reality TV!!!!
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on May 8, 10 11:12 AM
One of these days someone is going to have to make a decision.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on May 8, 10 3:26 PM
The problem is, Levan and Tucker don't want to follow the rule of law, and are holding off a decision in hopes of winning this election round, THEN rolling over the legal proceedings and screwing us again.
By Jean (79), whb on May 15, 10 5:22 PM
we.... do not need to diaband the police department,we need to rid ourselves of this board.....the mayor and the chief have many years of experiance and knowledge of how to run a department.....it's the board that caused this mess. there are still some good cops on the force,but the bad apples are getting all the attention....if tucker would stop playing "power man"and let the chief take care of business the department could get back to performing in a proffessional manner....we really don't want ...more
By curious (77), westhampton beach on May 8, 10 4:53 PM
I think you are onto something. They must be hiding something. If there is a change in the Board as you hope, the new Board should institute a full investigation of this matter to find out what is/was really going on. If the Board does not change, the citizens of WHB should pressure the attorney general and the Suffolk DA to look into what is going on. As an outsider looking in I wonder if there is some criminal or unethical act being concealed by the irrational behavior of these 3 Board members ...more
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 8, 10 10:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
I believe per Mr.Kamettler, (an otherwise good guy who is there on the spot for hurricanes and downed wires, disasters and fires, and who tries to help folks out; is a guy who you've got to like except for his penchant for being led,) stated ON RECORD that decisions are NOT going to be made until after the village elections! Say WHAT?
Ms. Levan simply smiled like Mona Lisa. If her guy Tucker becomes Mayor, the Village will become another indentured appendage of the Levan legacy. I don't know ...more
By Jean (79), whb on May 8, 10 10:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Jim the Gun" a "good guy"???? Are you for real???
If he did not retire he would have been brought up on charges just like Hager.
Than he would not have been able to act like the town bully shooting small animals and giving people a hard time at the local grocery store.
Shame that he did not face charges but all that shows is this game has gone on for long enought and it is finally coming to a head and has to be stopped.
Maybe you should have ...more
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 8, 10 11:47 PM
sjd, clearly you did not read the entire note. The subject changed, dude. Besides, I've seen Kametler out there with my fella helping clearing debris after big storms and helping the out the endangered and frail . Is he fallible? Yup. So are you and I.
This is NOT about Jim Kametler, except for the fact he has been an easy "yes" or "no" vote for the other two; Levan and Tucker, who clearly flaunt the law in our faces.
I hope Jimmy finds his way and stops doing what they tell him to do ...more
By Jean (79), whb on May 9, 10 9:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Jean...you missed the point If "Jim th Gun" would have been brought up on charges like he should have and not given the option to retire he would not be acting like the town bully that he does do weather you wish to see it or not.
He miss used his power as a cop just like he does on this so-called boad
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 9, 10 11:25 AM
You're absolutely right, Jean!
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on May 9, 10 9:26 AM
On the upside, these fools & crooks are making the Quogue PD look good! lol
By G (342), Southampton on May 9, 10 1:10 PM
Haha thats true G!!! Motz is looking good right now! haha
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on May 9, 10 2:13 PM
Fred Hager....Really Fred Hager?....Thats the best Hank, Joan, Jimmy and Charlie Palmer could get. A absolute disgrace to the badge..You think that these current guys are bad. He makes them look like angels. Drunk on duty, fighting with his fellow cops while he was off duty. The bar had to call the cops because of him and then he pushed around his own co-workers when they tried to get him to leave. Sleeping on duty in front of the performing arts center WHILE a concert was letting out!..No shame ...more
By The Truth (15), Westhampton on May 9, 10 9:12 PM
It's all they could get and besides they are just like him.
Maybe it's time to ask "jim the Gun" if he ever broke into a fellow officers locker.
When they do not show up for medical reasons they have the nerve to say it's their business.We pay you BUMS
Maybe it's time to see the personal records on all these so-called police officers that do nothing but collect a check.
Lets all so not forget the chief who has done nothing about the miss use in the police department but makes more ...more
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 10, 10 12:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
Wow!! This is better than Houswives of NY. Maybe Bravo TV can do a reality show in WHB.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 9, 10 9:45 PM
I hope all the little village goverments out here on the east end can learn something from all of this. Other than what I read, I do know what is going on with the P.D.. It is hard for me to believe that these officers are stageing a sick-out. And why? Solidarity?
The trustees are so blatintly and consistantly votting along thier alliances. Come on folks. Bipartisn decision making at this level of government has been ok for ever already. Stop holding grudges. Roll up your sleves, ...more
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on May 10, 10 7:49 PM
For some of the Village Trustees It seems that a bigger scandal is lurking in the new library ...Please SH Press do an expose on the spending, improperly certified elections for members (one who is running for mayor) etc. etc...This is big news. See the WHB blog for updates. You can't make up this stuff. Bravo TV, get here fast!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 10, 10 9:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mayor Teller must be reelected along with both his running mates. If he is elected without his running mates, the board will remain dysfunctional and the Mayor's effort to govern the tiny, two-mile-square Village of Westhampton Beach will be lost. The worst case scenario would be if Tucker wins the Mayoral election and then appoints another Levan yes-man to fill his vacated trustee seat. Then the Village is doomed. Levan writes that the village is doomed anyway and does not see that it is she ...more
By Fabiola (11), Southampton on May 11, 10 11:52 AM
DA Spota wake up...if anyone is going to investigate this lunacy properly it has to be you!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 11, 10 7:53 PM
3 members liked this comment
Everyone take a look at the local Westhampton Beach police report and tell me why we need these over paid bums
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 12, 10 8:15 PM
Just want to remind everyone that if the Westhampton Beach Police Department is disbanded, policing will be performed by the Southampton Town Police Department whose salaries make those of the WBPD look like slave wages. Moreover, the STPD PBA runs the Town wherever police matters are concerned via its surrogate Council members. Your taxes will go up, the quality of policing will remain constant (only because it CAN'T get worse) and you will find yourself saddled with an arrogant, disrespectful ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 12, 10 9:36 PM
2 members liked this comment
As always HIGHHATSIZE, light years ahead of your time, Thanks.
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on May 15, 10 9:45 PM
sjd l,why do you live in a village you find only fault with?why not move to a village covered by shtpd,there are some of us in the village that believe the problems in our pd can be solved,we need to rid ourselves of this board and the bad apples in the pd,there are good guys here that want to do their best,if given the opportunity. stop your whining,if you don't like it here,move!!!!!!!!
By curious (77), westhampton beach on May 13, 10 7:49 AM
"curious" You do nothing but defend this over paid do nothing police force.
You must be a former cop or related to one.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 13, 10 12:48 PM
Every chance you get you defend this force.Hager should have been fired for all he got a way with and Jim the Gun Kametler instead of being investaged was given the option to retire.These cops do NOTHING but miss-use power,sleep,lie and hide.They all so miss-use sick time and want to answer to no one and who lets them get a way with it?Time for you to face facts and stop defending your buddies.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 13, 10 1:09 PM
JIMMY KAMETLER: you love this little village.
Stop with the weighing of options, dump those carpetbaggers, Levan and Tucker who are USING you, and do the right thing.
Remember those who have helped YOU over the years

Please stop opposing the hearing -- it is a labor law protection of employees.
Let the chips fall where they may.
Allowing those two Trustees with whom you have aligned yourself--to make your decisions for you, has been bad for your legacy and this community.
By Jean (79), whb on May 15, 10 5:36 PM
"JIM THE GUN" Should have be thrown off the police force but instead he was given the option to retire.He all so should have NEVER been elected to any office because of his miss-use of power when he was a cop.He is nothing more than the village big mouth and tries to be the village bully.He does not have the smarts to make ANY decisions for him self.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 15, 10 6:22 PM
PLEASE VOTE NO to the LOUSY LIBRARY budget. It will not effect the progress of the project--it will merely force the Library board to open up their accounting practices. Levan, Tucker, and several other key players in WHB politics are on the Library Board, and have put their trademarked cloak of invisibility all over the numbers. WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH OUR MONEY? Further, I am advised THEY WERE NOT ELECTED TO THEIR ...more
By Jean (79), whb on May 15, 10 5:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
If they were not elected as you say, than how did they get appointed to the WHB School Library Board? Maybe you should be talking to the WHB school district.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 15, 10 6:25 PM
If they were not elected as you say
Why not tell us how you were "advised" to this???
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 15, 10 6:29 PM
Local officials and/or local police charged with inappropriate behavior. This is both new and exciting.
By cochise316 (58), southampton on May 17, 10 10:30 PM