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Jun 6, 2012 10:28 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Scalera, Nuzzi Cleared On Kiernan Consideration; Suspension Ruling Due Next Week

Jun 6, 2012 11:43 AM

The Southampton Town Board is due to address the suspension of Town Police Lieutenant James Kiernan this week—although determining Lt. Kiernan’s ultimate fate is likely to take many months.

Whatever decision the board makes this week—Lt. Kiernan’s initial suspension is set to expire on June 12—all five members of the Town Board are likely to participate after the town’s Ethics Board swept aside a complaint by Town Police Chief William Wilson claiming that Republican Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Councilwoman Christine Scalera should recuse themselves from consideration of Lt. Kiernan’s suspension because he is a Town Republican Party committeeman and a member of the party’s candidates screening panel.

Lt. Kiernan was suspended for 38 days by the Town Board—in a unanimous 4-0 vote that included Ms. Scalera but not Mr. Nuzzi, who was absent from the hastily scheduled May 4 meeting at which the suspension was handed down—after Chief Wilson leveled 32 disciplinary charges against the 14-year veteran, whom he had promoted just a few months earlier. The charges relate to Lt. Kiernan’s supervision of the town’s Street Crimes Unit and his handling of a situation surrounding one of the officers under his command, 12-year veteran police officer Eric Sickles, who reportedly had developed a prescription drug dependency.

When the suspension was adopted, the board said it would address the matter again on June 12, its first official public meeting of the month, though the issue is certain to be discussed only in closed-door private session with town attorneys.

The Ethics Board found that Mr. Nuzzi and Ms. Scalera should not be expected to remove themselves from the disciplinary proceedings against Lt. Kiernan just because he played a role in their being chosen as candidates for the Town Board in prior elections.

“The state Code of Ethics does not require a municipal officer or employee to refrain from participating in matters involving the members of political party committees that endorsed them for public office,” the Ethics Board ruling reads. “The town Code of Ethics does not regulate the internal operations of a town political party committee, nor require a town officer or employee who also serves as a member of town committee of a political party, to recuse himself or herself from participating in the internal process by which the party endorses candidates for office.”

Ms. Scalera was elected to the Town Board last fall. Mr. Nuzzi last stood for election in 2009 and is in his last eligible term as a councilman. The GOP committee chose him as their candidate for supervisor last year, but he declined to run.

Chief Wilson this week said he felt the Ethics Board had not addressed his specific complaint, but he would respect the ruling.

Chief Wilson’s complaint said that it was actually Lt. Kiernan who should’ve removed himself from his role in the party’s screening committee during the last rounds of Town Board candidacy selection, because the candidates the party chose stood to hold a supervisory position over him, and that, since he didn’t, Ms. Scalera and Mr. Nuzzi should recuse themselves from discussing or voting on his potential discipline.

“I don’t necessarily agree with all parts of the written opinion—I don’t feel they addressed my concern,” Chief Wilson said. “There is no law against him participating in the party, but I still feel there is an inherent conflict when someone is on the screening committee. You are literally the deciding factor. Is it proper that people he vetted and chose for office now sit in judgment of him?”

Town Board members this week declined to discuss Lt. Kiernan’s suspension or the disciplinary review process. Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said that the process was likely to take a long time, and that the town’s legal representatives and the attorney for the Superior Officers Association, the union that represents the department’s ranking officers, have not yet met to agree on a road map or time line for the review.

“There is no time constraint with respect to due process—things are still under discussion,” she said, noting that it could be several months before the process is completed. “I think what we’ll end up with is a mutually prescribed time line.”

Ms. Scarlato said the Town Board could not fire Lt. Kiernan without a disciplinary hearing before an independent hearing officer or arbitrator. Lt. Kiernan’s legal counsel and town labor attorneys have not met to discuss the hearing process yet, she said.

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Come on! Did anyone really think the appointed ethics board was going to do anything with this.....They always favor the majority of the town board. What a joke
By mrobin (119), North Sea on Jun 6, 12 1:05 PM
Really, please tell us when did the ethics board favor the majority?
Or are they following the ethics code of the town? Come on!
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 10:16 PM
Just another example of why the Town Ethics Code needs to be amended to eliminate loop holes and clarify what constitutes ethical or non-ethical behavior.

Yet neither the members of the Ethics Board nor the members of the Town Board have raised this issue despite the weaknesses of the Code revealed during the last campaign in Town.

Where are all those elected officials so concerned about transparency and good government on an issue that can be easily rectified.

Seems ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 1:10 PM
Seems to me that this as simple as the chief going after board members. Getting scarier by the day.
By getalife (58), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 4:17 PM
By the way, is the chief in politics or is he running a police department? I dont remember any of this nasty, political crap going on before he was there.
By getalife (58), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 4:19 PM
Seems like hes trying to run a dept but certain politicians are getting in the way for the worse to protect there own. And your right I dont remember any of this going on either, thats probably because the last Chief ( what was his name) and his alter ego Tenaglia did whatever they wanted and never cared about the public.....theres a real good reason the pd is in the mess it is now and that seems to rest solely on the shoulders of those two men
By mrobin (119), North Sea on Jun 6, 12 4:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
Starting to look like Wilson owes ATH for his appointment and its now payback time
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 6, 12 5:23 PM
2 members liked this comment
There is no balance at town hall, only an overweight bully holding up the see saw.  This was no surprise, if anything, it adds more "weight" to the corruption scandal inside town hall. 
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 6:32 PM
That's funny I thought Kiernan lived in Center Moriches out of the township of Southampton. How is he a commiteeman in the town he doesn't live or vote in for that matter? The lawsuits of the released felons could cost the town millions and bankrupt them. Did you know the town is self insured and is only covered at a million dollar cap? My other question is why is DA Spota letting these criminals out of jail? The way these cases are done is that the defendent has to make a motion to the court to ...more
By chief1 (2700), southampton on Jun 6, 12 7:32 PM
Chief, to be a committee person one need only leave in the Assembly District. That's the law under the New York State Election Law. Technically they are County Committee Persons.
county Committees are creatures of Election Law. Town Committees are creatures of the County Committees.
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 10:36 PM
Leave Chief Overton out of this-he deserves better.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 6, 12 9:09 PM
Yes leave Overton out of it. He was the out of touch clown at the helm when this was all going on. Southampton Town could go bankrupt and no one is accountable.Very funny that we are paying this guy a pension.
By chief1 (2700), southampton on Jun 7, 12 11:34 AM
2 members liked this comment
Of course there are people that will be accountable when Southampton goes "bankrupt" or even sued mutiple times for that matter. Just like Sordi was axed for his role in the "oh I need to answer a default judgemet" Genovese law suit, Scarlato will be held accountable for this debacle... But she will not be the only one.
By Geppetto (59), Southampton on Jun 8, 12 7:04 PM
A well deserved pension for his many years of service to the community
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 7, 12 4:06 PM
A well deserved pension for yet another civil servent sleeping at his desk.
By chief1 (2700), southampton on Jun 8, 12 7:41 PM
The only thing Overton deserves is a 6x6 jail cell with Tenaglia and Pearce, what a disservice these "locals" did for this town
By mrobin (119), North Sea on Jun 8, 12 9:28 PM
Its funny how you people have your facts so screwed up but continue to post made-up stories to try and validify your point. And mrobin if your not a ST police officer or the wife of one, i would be shocked.
By GoldenBoy (341), EastEnd on Jun 9, 12 7:13 AM
Hey, does anyone know why there were a large number of Southampton Town Police taking pictures and removing items from a house on Mitchell Pl. in EQ? I saw them there for hours because I passed the street three times during my daily walks. Just what is going on in EQ?
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Jun 9, 12 5:45 PM
never heard of Mitchell Pl
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 9, 12 6:06 PM
It is located just south of the EQ Village Green off Lewis Rd.
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Jun 10, 12 6:46 AM
thanks
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 10, 12 9:26 AM
I was expecting to see an article in the "Press" about the Mitchell Pl incident. Rumor has it an arrest was made and drugs/child abuse was the reason that the large number of SH Police were there for hours. It happened on 5/30 and still nothing in the news. What is going on in our community?
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Jun 11, 12 8:58 AM
I was expecting to see an article in the "Press" about the Mitchell Pl incident. Rumor has it an arrest was made and drugs/child abuse was the reason that the large number of SH Police were there for hours. It happened on 5/30 and still nothing in the news. What is going on in our community?
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Jun 11, 12 8:58 AM
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