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May 19, 2010 12:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach detective suspended, faces disciplinary hearing

May 19, 2010 12:28 PM

WESTHAMPTON BEACH—Members of the Westhampton Beach Village Board decided at a special meeting on Monday that they will serve as hearing officers for Detective Stephen Cunneen’s upcoming disciplinary hearing.

Det. Cunneen, a 21-year veteran of the police force, was suspended with pay effective Tuesday for up to 30 days, pending the determination of the charges. He has been charged with failing to adhere to a direct order from Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean on three separate occasions, according to Mayor Teller.

Det. Cunneen, who has been out sick since early March on a work-related injury, was ordered to provide his medical records to a Suffolk County doctor.

A date for the hearing will be scheduled later this week, according to Mayor Teller, who also confirmed at Monday’s meeting that Det. Cunneen was the police officer served with charges late last month. The mayor previously refused to confirm the identity of the targeted officer, even after former Village Police officer Fred Hager revealed Det. Cunneen’s identity during a public meeting two weeks ago.

Det. Cunneen, who makes almost $104,000 a year excluding benefits, was served with charges in late April after he failed to provide a doctor employed by Suffolk County, who oversees police officer injuries, with his medical records, according to Mayor Teller.

Det. Cunneen said Tuesday that he provided documentation of his line of duty injury when his records became available.

“I am fully confident that the allegation against me will be reversed by the Village Board, as I had provided full medical documentation to the Suffolk County doctor as it became available to me,” he said.

Once a police officer is served with disciplinary charges, Village Board members can either decide to hire a hearing officer to listen to the claims and make a recommendation regarding innocence or guilt, or they can opt to hear the charges themselves. There was a resolution on the agenda Monday to appoint Stephen Bluth as the hearing officer for $1,600 per day. But board members, after meeting for almost an hour in executive session Monday, decided to serve as the hearing panel.

The Village Board will also decide on a punishment, if any.

Mayor Teller said the hearing should not be complicated, as it seems to be a simple issue. Other board members said they thought a hearing would best be handled in-house.

“We think we are capable of handling it,” said Village Board member Joan Levan.

It was not immediately clear if the hearing will be open to the public. Police officers can request that their hearings be held behind closed doors, according to state law.

Det. Cunneen, when reached Tuesday afternoon, declined to comment further on the issue.

Board member Hank Tucker, who will challenge Mayor Teller in next month’s village election, said the board made a decision to move forward with Det. Cunneen’s disciplinary hearing based on the information presented.

“We had all the information that we needed,” he said, adding that all board members were given the opportunity to discuss the situation before voting on the issue.

“It’s different than the other high-profile case where we have asked for info before we vote and the mayor and police chief have refused to provide it,” Mr. Tucker wrote in an e-mail.

The Village Board has continuously declined to hold disciplinary hearings for two other Westhampton Beach police officers, Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane, after the Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau determined that they lied to superior officers during an investigation of a colleague’s missing weapon. The pair were suspended in October, but the charges were dropped in December by the Village Board, in spite of Mayor Teller’s objections. The pair has been on restrictive duty ever since.

Officer Bruetsch and Pesapane’s charges have nothing to do with Det. Cunneen’s situation, Mayor Teller has previously stated.

Also during Monday’s special meeting, the Village Board denied three grievances filed by the Westhampton Beach Police Benevolent Association on behalf of Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane that attempted to take them off restrictive duty, remove them from the midnight shift, and allow them to be eligible for overtime.

Officer Jeff Speer, who serves as president of the Westhampton Beach PBA, declined to comment on the outcome.

Mayor Teller also removed two other grievances, both asking that two of four resolutions that demand police records be rescinded, from Monday’s agenda. Mayor Teller said he took those off the agenda because board members disagreed with them. One grievance requested that the resolution that seeks command discipline records and prohibits Chief Dean from using that system be rescinded, while the other requests that the board take back the resolution that asks for firearm ownership records.

Board members have declined to rescind those resolutions during previously scheduled board meetings. The resolutions, which were passed in March, demand records of command discipline, penal law offenses, audio and visual evidence, and gun ownership from the police department. Board members have stated that they need that information before deciding whether or not to move forward on disciplinary hearings for Officers Bruetsch and Pesapane.

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"Sick Happens"
By uncleronk (136), southold on May 18, 10 1:17 PM
Why did it take 3 times for someone to do something?
Why are we not told what is going on here and not this crap that it is a "personal matter"?
If this was a so called work-related injury why are we not told about what was filed when he was so-called hurt on the job?
Was it Cunnen's wife who was sitting next to Hager talking to him when all this started at the village board meeting?
When is all this going to stop?
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 2:07 PM
The story states that the mayor called it a "personnel" not "personal" matter. Typically, characterizing something as a "personnel matter" allows avoidance of open government laws.
By Good Ground (24), Hampton Bays on May 18, 10 2:22 PM
Good catch on the "personal/personnel" thing. SJD often misses such subtlety.

But your characterization that deeming something "a personnel matter" is a dodge around "open government laws" displays a complete lack of familiarity with NYS Labor Law.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 18, 10 3:10 PM
"Frank" Sorry for the typing error seems no-one can be as perfect as you always think you are,but you do not say anything why it took 3 times to have something done. Why no commment about Cunnen's wife with Hager?
You have so many comments about the town I live in so maybe it is time for you to tell us who you are related to here.
As usual you do not add anything when you post a comment.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 4:13 PM
It's less about being "perfect," then about being accurate: they may sound the same but they have two different meanings, and "personnel" is a matter of law. Stop whining, own your error and if you still don't understand this, look it up. (I don't think it was a "typing error" so much as you didn't know the difference.)

I have no relatives either by blood or marriage in your Village, but we live in the same Town, another subtlety which seems to elude you.

I used to do some shopping ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 18, 10 6:04 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 6:26 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 7:03 PM
Sorry Frank it's" Mayor"
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 7:05 PM
"Frank"
I really do not care what you think but it was a typing error.Maybe before you spout off you should do some homework.
At the meeting the woman sitting next to Hager whispering in his ear was Cunneen's wife while Hager was yelling at the mayor.Hager should have been fired for all he did when he was on the force and seems like everyone but you knows it.Jim the Gun all so should have been fired instead he was given the option to retire.
HOMEWORK ...more
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 7:27 PM
Where was that information published about "Hager" and "Cunneen's wife," and what difference does it make? (Is it in the video on the WHB website?)

You made it sound like they were caught in a tryst somewhere.

By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 1:25 AM
Frank
Why would Hager who should have been fired a long time ago and Cunneen's wife be sitting next to him whispering to him as he is yelling at the Mayor? Cunneen is another one that should be gone. Snakes sleep under the same rock Frank and I sure you can understand that.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 11:36 AM
That's all you've got? Two people sitting together? You saw this happen and heard some of what they were saying?

You sound like a conspiratorialist. Who else is involved? What does it mean?
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 1:02 PM
Frank
and like always you sound like a FOOL
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:25 PM
Just answer the question. You made a statement, now back it up.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 3:25 PM
Frank, wow, calm down. My point is that characterizing something as a "personnel matter" allows council to discuss the matter in an executive session rather than during an open meeting. I believe that you will find this in the New York "Open Meetings Law". It has nothing to do with NYS Labor Law. But, please, Frank, enlighten us.
By Good Ground (24), Hampton Bays on May 20, 10 12:07 PM
Frank
Hager has no right to even be at the meeting since he DOES NOT live in Westhampton Beach LIKE YOU.How many times do I have to tell you Frank do you HOMEWORK before you open you BIG MOUTH and look like a FOOL AGAIN
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 20, 10 1:50 PM
suspended with pay! how can i get suspended with pay?
By fishy (92), East Hampton on May 18, 10 2:36 PM
...is anyone in charge of these people?
By William Rodney (558), southampton on May 18, 10 2:51 PM
Yes, this Chief is, but anytime the Chief raises his voice to these guys they go running to Hank, Joan and Jimmy who in return go after the Chief.
By The Truth (15), Westhampton on May 18, 10 3:04 PM
2 members liked this comment
I guess his recent campaigning for Hunk Tucker is going to pay off. According to www.whbqt.info. Hank Tucker and Joan Levan removed an impartial arbitraitor and appointed themselves as hearing officers.
Friends taking care of friends. This board has got to go.
Isnt this Detective one of the guys who has his retirement papers already submitted, however, his retirement date is AFTER the elections. If his friend Hank Tucker gets elected Mayor he pulls his papers, charges are dropped and he ...more
By The Truth (15), Westhampton on May 18, 10 2:59 PM
Lets not forget "Jim the Gun" who should have been fired instead of being given the option to retire.
Time for Suffolk DA to get involved.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 4:17 PM
SJD: "Time for Suffolk DA to get involved."

Sounds like it -- have you made the call to Spota's office?
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 18, 10 6:07 PM
"Frank" Maybe you should read more before you make a comment since I am not the only one that said it.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 8:01 PM
I didn't ask anyone else, I asked you since you have the biggest mouth here when it comes to the WHB police.

If you think the DA should look into this, why don't YOU call his offices instead of spouting off the same stuff in every comment you make. You live there, you don't have a lot to say but you repeat what you do say over-and-over again, so it must be important to you.

Make the call, SJD -- man up and put the phone mouthpiece where your mouth is and make that call. Do it ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 1:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes Frank I do live here UNLIKE you that just has some buddies at the Fire department and use to do some shopping here as you say.As far as the biggest mouth here I LIVE HERE and a you are nothing more than a AIR BAG that puts his nose in every towns business and knows NOTHING
The call has been made weeks ago for you iinfo
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 11:04 AM
Yeah? And how's that been working out for you?
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 11:20 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:23 PM
Well I guess we will see. At least I do something unlike YOU frank that does nothing
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 1:24 PM
Golly, SJD -- talk about a broken record! Is your needle stuck?

As for doing something, you live there, I don't. You're the one who comes here on a daily basis saying the same old thing EVERY TIME.

I'm glad you contacted the DA's offices -- how many months or years ago?

What are you going to do now? Keep whining about "JIM THE GUN" and the Police Chief?

When something effects me directly, I DO do something -- and it's not sitting back and whining in the same ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 2:09 PM
Frank
When you have time look at the beach blogger and see Hager's record and Cunneen's and how JIM the Gun was all so involved before you carry on about things you have no idea about. Hager all so stated he lived in Westhampton Beach which he DOES NOT another lie by a former cop of this lieing police force.He all so may have violated the deal he made when he signed his retirement deal years ago.
Again Frank do your HOMEWORK and WAKE UP
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 2:14 PM
"Frank"
What have you EVER done???? Agin Frank maybe you should read below before you make more FOOLISH comments that show you for what you are,a AIR BAG
Snakes sleep under rocks together and I sure you know about that Frank
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 10 5:09 PM
If what you say is the truth, "The Truth", then could Westhampton be better off with SHT police? The idea that police have such a hand in politics is disturbing but it is not exclusive to WHB.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on May 18, 10 3:56 PM
Westhampton would be better of with out the police force or this board.
The board and the police have turned this village into the joke of the east end.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 4:15 PM
The department currently has a large majority of its members (mostly senior members who enjoyed the good 'ol boy system) who dislike the Chief. If they disagree with or are caught by the Chief doing anything they run to Hank, Joan and Jimmy to save them.
Joan, Hank and JIm have allowed the disgruntled to have so much control of the department that the they do as they want and ignore the Chief. Use this latest as an example. Disobey an order from the Chief, he charges you, your friends on the ...more
By The Truth (15), Westhampton on May 18, 10 4:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
As you say if this "good 'ol boy system" was not here "Jim the Gun" would have been brought up on chatges and never would have been on the board and Hager would all so have been fired.
This village is less than three square miles and the police have been caught sleeping,hiding,lieing and so on. They solve NO crime.
When anything major happens the Southampton poice department show up first.
The chief who gets paid the same as the chief of police of NYC is doing nothing but collecting ...more
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 18, 10 5:01 PM
Im hearing Greenport all over again.... No one has had control dating back to Tom V. they promote, they demote, they bring in from outside for Sgt then Chief within days ....where was Civil Service on that one...whew... forget housewives of the Hamptons, lets put this debacle on television....
By BCHBUM11968 (81), SOUTHAMPTON on May 18, 10 5:15 PM
I hereby declare my write-in candidacy for each and every vacancy.

If enough votes are cast for each open position, I (we) shall elect one's self as Emperor of WHB, and shall disband the Village including the PD.

Myron J. Pleschet
By MJP (13), On Quiogue on May 18, 10 7:34 PM
Time for an investigation....DA Spota?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 18, 10 7:53 PM
Sure wish the Press could ask their "Leaker" for information on this latest charge. Failing to "adhere" to a direct order from the chief? What's that?

In any case, the upcoming election will enable the initial charge to be resolved if candidates supporting the Chief and the Mayor are elected.

Judging from the responses to Press items, the WBPD should include red clown noes as standard issue. After this current contretemps is resolved, the Village attorney can be charged to ...more
By highhatsize (4183), East Quogue on May 18, 10 11:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
A investigation by DA Spota? Are you kidding? Spota does not have the authority, jurisdiction or clout to investigate this or any other Police Dept. Even if Spota had any of those things, he would never be allowed to proceed.

And HHat - Red Clown Noses are already standard equipment in Quogue - maybe try dunce caps in WHB. lol
By G (339), Southampton on May 19, 10 8:51 AM
G: "Spota does not have the authority, jurisdiction or clout to investigate this or any other Police Dept."

I believe that to be factually inaccurate.

What he DOESN'T have, is the inclination. He used to be the WHB PBA attorney, and as DA, he's a headline hunter. If it doesn't provide a good photo op for him, Spota isn't interested.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 19, 10 9:55 AM
Thank you Frank...that is the point.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 19, 10 7:02 PM
See 5/19/10 Editorial in the Independent (not my favorite paper). They agree Spota's investigatiion is "way overdue."
By nellie (451), sag harbor on May 19, 10 7:48 PM
sjjd, if you seem to have all the answers, than put your name in for a Village Board position. If you got your wish, taxes would decrease only slightly. Look at the Village of Sagaponack, 2.1 million for a part time sector car. And look at Greenports history, a month after they disbanded the PD, they sued Southold Town trying to get it back. The Village crime went through the roof and property values droped like a rock. BUT, sjd you have all the answers. Try fixing the problem, not making ...more
By Yearround Resident (23), Southampton on May 20, 10 8:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
Yearround Resident
You are another one who does not live here tell me what I should do. Are not you the same one that wished the crook mayor of Qupgue good luck after he was convicted of steeling 2.4 million? I can see the type of people you side with.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 21, 10 2:55 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 21, 10 2:55 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 21, 10 6:41 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 21, 10 9:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 21, 10 10:15 PM
Frank, regarding my comment above, my point was that characterizing something as a "personnel matter" allows council to discuss the matter in an executive session rather than during an open meeting. I believe that you will find this in the New York "Open Meetings Law". It has nothing to do with NYS Labor Law. But, please, Frank, enlighten us.
By Good Ground (24), Hampton Bays on May 21, 10 10:27 PM
And I heard Hell was hot.

Some topic...
By Mr. Z (11676), North Sea on May 22, 10 2:28 AM
sjd - why do you call him "Jim the Gun"?
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on May 23, 10 4:26 PM
Oh no, don't ask him that!
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on May 23, 10 6:26 PM
SJD and Frank You two really need to get a life, you both are sad pathetic,
find something good to do volunteer, mentor a young kid something productive
PLEASE!! ps. i don't live in you town and I am GLAD
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on May 24, 10 2:58 PM
You're absolutely right.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 24, 10 3:57 PM
"J.Totta"
Strange you do not think my comment's about the town I live in are productive but things need to be said and things have to change.
Since Frank Wheeler has finally found someone to agree with maybe you are the 2 that are sad and pathic people who have nothing to do but find fault with someones opion on the town I LIVE IN. I will agree that I am VERY GALD that neither one of you live here.
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on May 24, 10 11:23 PM