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Mar 2, 2010 8:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridget Fleming balances work and life

Mar 2, 2010 8:11 PM

September 11 delayed Town Board candidate Bridget Fleming’s planned move to the East End—she was too busy helping young widows figure out how to navigate the life insurance system to uproot her life in Manhattan and move to Noyac.

But a few months after the terrorist attacks, Ms. Fleming was able to hand off her duties as the managing attorney of community law outreach for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York—the organization through which she was aiding the families of September 11 victims—and move to her home in Noyac with her husband, local contractor Robert Agoglia.

She joined the Noyac Community Advisory Committee and the Noyac Civic Council soon after she had son Jai, now 7 and a student at Sag Harbor Elementary School.

“It’s my nature to be active in the community,” said Ms. Fleming, 49.

That personality trait is spurring Ms. Fleming, who ran against Town Board member Jim Malone in November’s elections, to make another go of running for town office. She is battling William Hughes of Hampton Bays, a lieutenant in the Southampton Town Police Department who recently filed his retirement papers, for the Town Board seat vacated by Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. The election is Tuesday, March 9.

“I was raised in a family that took a lot of stock in public service,” Ms. Fleming said. “We were raised to believe that you should give back—that it’s the best way to live.”

Ms. Fleming, who was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, to an Irish-Catholic family, noted that most of her seven siblings have public service jobs. Some of her sisters are teachers, and one of her brothers is an attorney, she said.

Law appealed to Ms. Fleming’s penchant for public service, she explained. After graduating from Hunter College, she chose the law school that offered her a full scholarship, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, so that she would not have to slog away at a large corporate firm to pay off her student loans.

Ms. Fleming secured a position at a general trial bureau in the Manhattan district attorney’s office as her first job after law school.

The job offer came about through a serendipitous train ride, she explained. Riding north from Virginia, Ms. Fleming found herself sitting next to legendary Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau. He offered her a job, and, before she knew it, she was prosecuting sex crimes before a grand jury for the district attorney.

“I tried challenging cases involving awful crimes,” she said.

Next, she was made an assistant district attorney and worked as head of the welfare fraud unit. She was responsible for investigating large conspiracies in the welfare system.

In some her most important work there, she discovered widespread fraud on the part of government employees. They were recruiting people to apply for and receive welfare, and then taking a kickback from those payments. “I really made a difference,” Ms. Fleming said.

That feeling of making a difference is compelling Ms. Fleming, who has taught yoga in her spare time, to run for Town Board.

One of her goals, if elected, is to see that the voices of members of the community advisory committees are better heard by the Town Board, she explained.

“I was fascinated by the depth of knowledge in the CAC and the number of people who care and volunteer their time and efforts,” Ms. Fleming said about her time in the Noyac CAC. “But I found it frustrating. We did a lot of work and there was a lot of knowledge in the group but the Town Board did not listen to our concerns or respond.”

While she was involved with the group for about two to three years, she worked on traffic calming on Noyac Road and protecting the environment, especially in regard to the onslaught of new development.

Ms. Fleming noted that she stopped participating in the CAC—which had long nighttime meetings—to spend more time with Jai.

After leaving the district attorney’s office, Ms. Fleming found herself in the wake of September 11, but also with a chance to help the families of the victims of September 11.

She had been working as the managing attorney of community law outreach for The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, which typically provides voluntary legal services for people in dire straits, such as homelessness, for about one year when September 11 happened.

She stayed on in her role for a few months longer than anticipated, delaying her move to the East End, but she was able to assist those going through the worst times of their lives. Many of the victims of September 11 were young men, and their widows and young children would often come into her office looking for help, she explained. She added that there were many snags for families trying to secure life insurance, because so many bodies were never found.

“The need was so great, and so many people were in horribly traumatic circumstances, and had unusual legal needs,” Ms. Fleming said.

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