The Southampton Village Board had its regular meeting this past Thursday during which, among other important issues, we discussed whether to let the chief of police’s contract auto-renew on May 31. The previous administration inserted a so-called “evergreen” clause into his contract, essentially allowing the chief to remain in place as long as he wishes.
The very high annual compensation in the contract — $441,947 — is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers, especially given how little crime there is. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Chief Cummings, but rather the previous administration for signing such an outsized contract, which was apparently done without labor counsel present. For all of these reasons, we have been seeking to renegotiate the chief’s contract. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, those negotiations seem to be at a standstill.
For that reason, I felt it was imperative to vote this past week to stop this massive contract, easily the largest in the village, from auto-renewing. In the near term, this would have saved the taxpayers approximately $50,000 a year; more important, it would have freed future boards and administrations from the burden of the “evergreen” clause. Chief Cummings would have remained in place as negotiations continued, but without this clause. Unfortunately, the vote failed.
While I expected Trustees Parash and Pilaro to vote against us, it was Trustee McLoughlin’s “abstain” vote that took me by surprise. Per parliamentary procedure, there are only two reasons a trustee may abstain from a vote: not enough information or a conflict of interest. Given that the first excuse clearly doesn’t apply here as Joe has had a lead role in the negotiations, the only other explanation would be a conflict of interest. With that in mind, I asked Trustee McLoughlin whether rumors about him receiving gifts from the PBA, such as a card or a shield, were true, and if this was the conflict of interest that kept him from voting. He refused to respond and became agitated at the line of questioning. We still don’t have an explanation as to why he abstained.
If we can’t bring outlandish contracts such as these in line with common sense, our taxes will continue to go higher and higher every year while other important village problems such as toxic lakes, the lack of a sewer system, and revitalizing downtown will continue to be underfunded.
For the record, I always have and always will support our Village Police Department. The entirely baseless rumors that I want to defund or disband the police are exactly that: baseless rumors spread by my political opponents simply because I am trying to bring common sense reforms to a handful of very expensive contracts. Hopefully, the next time the board votes on an issue such as this, common sense will prevail.
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One fine body…