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Sep 28, 2012 10:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Kiernan Hearing Begins

Oct 3, 2012 11:45 AM

The disciplinary hearing for Southampton Town Police Lieutenant James Kiernan began on Friday at the Suffolk County Department of Labor in Hauppauge and, as per his choice, was closed to the public.

Friday’s proceeding was mostly a scheduling day and no witnesses were called, according to Lt. Kiernan’s attorney, Ray Perini, who is also the lawyer for the Southampton Town Police Superior Officers Association, the union for department brass.

Mr. Perini said his client’s defense will begin in earnest on Friday, October 19. Several sessions are tentatively planned to take place over the next several weeks.

Lt. Kiernan, a 15-year police veteran who has been suspended since May, is fighting more than 30 disciplinary charges that were filed against him earlier this year by Police Chief William Wilson Jr.

The charges focus on Lt. Kiernan’s conduct while he was the supervising sergeant of the town’s now-disbanded Street Crime Unit, an undercover anti-drug squad that has been the focus of an investigation by Chief Wilson and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s office.

Among the allegations are that the then-sergeant kept one of his undercover officers, Eric Sickles, in the line of duty, even after he was aware that he had developed an addiction to prescription drugs, and then tried to cover it up. Officer Sickles also was suspended by the Town Board earlier this year, but a hearing date for him has not been set, according to town officials.

Soon after Lt. Kiernan’s suspension, the D.A.’s office recommended that two convicted drug dealers be released from prison because of problems with the legal cases that led to their 
convictions based on the 
investigations of the Street Crime Unit.

Lt. Kiernan himself requested that the evidence of his case be addressed through binding arbitration—in which the hearing officer’s decision on discipline would be the final word on his punishment—a choice that Town Police contracts allow. But because the binding arbitration clause of police contracts is the subject of a lawsuit in another municipality, the Town Board opted to appoint a hearing officer instead. The officer, Roger Maher, an arbiter for the New York State Department of Labor, will make recommendations but leave the decision of the ultimate disposition of Lt. Kiernan’s case to the board.

Lt. Kiernan has been appealing to friends and supporters to help fund the legal costs of fighting the charges against him, calling them an “unwarranted attack” on his character.

“He’s looking forward to the upcoming process,” said Mr. Perini. “At the end of the day, he’ll be exonerated and will be back on the job.”

He said his client had selected the proceedings be closed to the public as is his “personal right,” but that is a decision he and his client will make on a “day-to-day basis.”

The town has hired the Westbury law firm Sokoloff Stern to represent the police chief and Town Board at the hearings.

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Please no comments until the hearings are over and all the evidence is in.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 28, 12 1:48 PM
The Town not using binding arbitration is just plan dumb. Because it is part of a lawsuit somewhere else doesn't mean a thing. Lawsuit or not Lt. Kiernan has the right to what is in his contract. Lets say after this hearing, the board fires Lt Kiernan but a year from now after that other lawsuit is done and binding arbitration was upheld. Than what? That would mean that the Lt's right's were violated under his contract. He would file suit against the town for violating his rights and to get his ...more
By EH123 (22), East Hampton on Sep 28, 12 4:32 PM