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East Hampton Police Chief back in the spotlight

February 1, 2013 Local News No Comments
East Hampton Police Chief Matt Reimondo talks to supporters after his job was formally cut by the town council, at the Sept 28 2010 meeting at EH High School. File photo copyright 2010 by Brenda Sullivan

East Hampton Police Chief Matt Reimondo talks to supporters after his job was formally cut by the town council, at the Sept 28 2010 meeting at EH High School. File photo copyright 2010 by Brenda Sullivan

By Brenda Sullivan

East Hampton Police Chief Matthew Reimondo was at the center of a controversy in the summer of 2010 that rocked the town for almost four months.  Former Town Manager Jeffery O’Keefe was also central to the upheaval, for eliminating the position of police chief in order to, he said, help the town save money during tough economic times.

At that time, Chief Reimondo was put on paid administrative leave while the Town Council dealt with the backlash from a contingency of town residents under the banner of Take Back Our Town.

Now, Chief Reimondo and the current Town Manager Michael Maniscalco are the focus of what is proving to be another political mess.

Chief Reimondo recently accepted an offer of early retirement meant to save the town money. The offer was made to police staff with the rank of sergeant or higher and with at least 20 years of experience – which turns out to be Chief Reimondo, Sgt. Garritt Kelly, and Sgt. Michael Green. Green declined the offer.

According to Republican Town Council member Ted Hintz, Jr., the retirement agreement for Chief Reimondo included a clause prohibiting him from applying for or being hired for a position with the town.

However, Town Manager Maniscalco announced Thursday, Jan. 31 that Reimondo had been rehired as interim police chief for a three-month period, while a search is conducted for a full-time replacement.

Hintz said in a phone interview today (Feb. 1) he has “great concerns” not only about the town manager’s decision but also about being left out of the loop.  He also said he believes that the town manager was not acting on his own initiative, but was directed in his actions by Chatham Party town council members.

“I cannot believe any town manager would do anything like this without the full knowledge and consent of a majority of the council,” Hintz said.

During the 2010 controversy, there were several FOI requests made of council members by press and concerned town residents which indicated there was considerable ongoing discussion between some of the council members about the police chief and town manager – as well as between some council members and the town manager… something Chatham Party members denounced.

In this case, Hintz said, “I’m sure there is no email trail… this was probably done with phone calls.”

Hintz , who called a press conference outside East Hampton Town Hall this afternoon, said he was not sent an email that was sent to other council members by the town manager informing him of the decision to rehire Reimondo.  He said he learned about the decision in a phone call from someone at the police department.  Reimondo began his interim position on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Police personnel in attendance at the press conference today included Sgt. Michael Green and Police union President Michael Salafia.

Hintz said the no-rehire clause in Reimondo’s contract was to prevent just this kind of controversy from erupting over the police department again. “We wanted to make sure there was no repeat of the past,” he said in the phone interview.

He also said that the Town Council had been assured by Town Manager Maniscalco that the town didn’t need to hire an interim police chief, that the town could designate a senior officer as temporary administrator.

Hintz said he also objects to rehiring Reimondo – at $36.92 an hour plus a $9,000 insurance stipend – because Reimondo already is receiving a very generous retirement package that includes Reimondo’s request for three years added service (as part of calculating his retirement payments), in addition to $61,000 in vacation and sick time.

Hintz said he sees no reason why someone such as Sgt. Green couldn’t serve as temporary administrator during the search process for a new chief.   “The town went without a police chief for four months [while Reimondo was on paid leave], and Sgt. Green did a great job,” Hintz said.

Hintz criticized the Chatham Party members on the town council saying, “they are doing now what they screamed about [in 2010], only it’s worse.”

Hintz also commented on his actions that resulted in the cancelation of a Special Meeting of the Town Council that was scheduled for Tuesday (Jan. 28). The meeting notice as not posted on the Town web site within the time limits required by the Freedom of Information Act, he said.

He also accused some members of the council of deliberately choosing a day and time when they knew he could not attend. “I run two businesses, I had a client appointment that could not be rescheduled – they knew those were the only two hours that I wouldn’t be able to attend,” Hintz said, “but they felt it was more important to pick a time when the Chatham Party members could be present.”

The current make-up of the Town Council is: Chair Susan Weintraub (C), Vice Chair Glenn Suprono (C), Kyle Dostaler (C), Ted Hintz Jr. (GOP), Derek Johnson (GOP), Barbara Moore (D) and George Pfaffenbach (D).

Glenn Suprono, in a phone interview today, said while he ran for election on the Chatham Party platform, he still considers himself a Republican, and objected to Hintz painting him as a part of a Chatham Party conspiracy.

“I am not Chatham Party. I am a Republican. I didn’t change my affiliation and neither did Derek [Johnson].  We simply ran on a platform as people trying to do good for the town,” Suprono said.

As for Town Council members influencing Maniscalco’s decision, Suprono said, “By virtue of our Town Charter, the Town Council has only one employee, and that’s the Town Manager.” And as such, it is in the purview of the Town Manager to hire someone as interim Police Chief, he said.

“And if he chooses to talk to one of the Town Council members for input, that’s also his prerogative,” Suprono said.

He criticized Hintz for not understanding his role as a member of an elected body. “He believes he has to have his thumb on everything… he believes the Town Manager cannot do anything without permission from him and Moore and Pfaffenbach,” Suprono said.

Asked if – given the turbulent events surrounding the chief’s job in 2010 – the Town Council might have been wiser to have openly discussed rehiring Reimondo at a Town Council meeting, Suprono said there’s a big difference between the events of 2010 and the current situation.

“The difference is, what [former Town Manager] O’Keefe did was illegal and totally wrong, and that’s why the chief got his job back,” Suprono said.

At the time O’Keefe eliminated the police chief’s position, he was also under investigation by the police chief for sexual harassment. In addition, legal opinion indicated that the Town Charter did not allow a Town Manager to eliminate the position and would have to be altered in order to do so. The chief was ultimately restored to his job after a townwide referendum supported his return.

Suprono noted that the Town Council, after Reimondo accepted the retirement agreement, directed Maniscalco to start a search for an interim police chief for a three-month period.

As it turns out, Suprono said, there was no one with the proper qualifications willing to take such a short term assignment. “Nobody wants to do that for three months – apparently the minimum is two years,” Suprono said.

And as for promoting from within, “it turns out [senior officers] aren’t qualified under state laws,” Suprono said.

Regarding the no-rehire clause in Reimondo’s retirement agreement, a news report by WFSB-Channel 3 tonight (Feb. 1) stated that the contract also includes a clause that states if both parties agree, changes can be made to the retirement agreement – such as the no-rehire clause.

Suprono also refuted Hintz’s accusation that the Tuesday council meeting was deliberately scheduled to exclude Hintz. He said Hintz wanted the meeting moved to 8 p.m. and that this meant two other members wouldn’t be able to attend – including himself.  Suprono is recovering from heart surgery in January and said he does not want to attend late night meetings.

He said the Special Meeting notice was posted only 20 minutes later than it should have been.

He added that the meeting “was only for the Town Manager to inform us of what he was doing. Nothing was up for discussion or a vote.”

Suprono said he is discouraged by the uproar over Reimondo’s hire, because the council seemed to be working well together, but that it’s hard to avoid the “undercurrent” of politics in East Hampton.

Town Manager Michael Maniscalco could not be reached for comment at the time of this posting.

In a press release issued by Maniscalco today, he states:

After significant review of the state statutes which dictate the appointment of a Police Chief, it has been determined that an external interim candidate is close to impossible with Chief Reimondo’s January 30th retirement.

While many of the candidates would be good for the permanent Chief’s position, the timeline presented for the interim makes the recruitment of an external candidate impractical.

With both public safety and the Department’s needs in mind, Chief Reimondo has agreed to act as the Interim Chief while the Town Manager focuses all efforts to finding East Hampton’s next Police Chief.

The search for the permanent Chief will commence immediately with an announcement being released on February 1, 2013.

Interim Chief Reimondo will enter into a 3 month contract with the Town and will receive $36.92 an hour and a stipend for health insurance at the end of his contract.

Posted February 1, 2013

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