Racial Bias Alleged

Town workers file protests over assignments

    Three East Hampton Town Highway Department workers have filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging discrimination by Scott King, the town highway superintendent. John Jilnicki, the East Hampton town attorney, confirmed the legal proceeding yesterday.
    The complainants, Wallace Trotman, who is African-American, and Luis Bahamondes and Ursan Bonilla, who are Latino, allege that human rights violations occurred within the past year. Department workers had complained to town officials last year that Mr. King was discriminatory in doling out work assignments, used racial slurs, and was abusive. A town investigation into these allegations, all of which Mr. King denied, resulted in his attending anger management sessions.
    East Hampton Town is named as the defendant in the case. It has been referred to an attorney appointed by the town’s insurance carrier, Steve Stern of Sokoloff Stern in Mineola, Mr. Jilnicki said. An extension of time has been requested to prepare and submit the town’s response. Mr. King said yesterday that he had been informed by the state agency of the allegations, but could not discuss the details. The three complainants could not be reached by press time.
    “It’s political,” Mr. King, who is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket this fall, said. “This is a vendetta by a couple of longtime employees. I’ve never discriminated against anybody.”
    Elaine Jones, an Amagansett resident who heads the East Hampton Independence Party, which has endorsed Mr. King’s Republican-line opponent, Steven Lynch, confirmed yesterday that she had helped the highway employees file the complaints.    
    “This is not political,” she said, expressing her opinion that Mr. King had shown himself to be racist and abusive. However, she admitted the prospect of Mr. King’s winning re-election was the catalyst for filing the complaints, “so it doesn’t keep happening again. Because it’s been going on so long, and it has to be stopped.” 
    When the first known complaints against Mr. King were made over a year ago, he said, he had put Kevin Ahearn, the deputy highway superintendent, in charge of assigning the men’s duties. “I distanced myself as soon as that investigation started.”
    “The bottom line is I’ve brought to the municipal world a work ethic from the outside, and it doesn’t go over big,” Mr. King said.
    “This is orchestrated by Elaine Jones,” Mr. King said. “She actually admitted she filled the paperwork on this. Steve Lynch married her niece. That’s the driving force behind this.”
    “The men came to me,” Ms. Jones said.
    “I guess I’ve been known to stick up for town employees.” Ms. Jones’s late husband worked for the town, and her son-in-law is now a town employee. She acknowledged that Mr. Lynch, whom her party endorsed, is married to a family member, but she added that, as far as the party was concerned, “We would endorse anybody but Scott King.”
    Mr. King expressed confidence that the allegations would be ruled unfounded. Although it had been reported that 11 department employees had already testified before the commission, he said other department employees would paint a different picture. “I’d really like someone to sit down and dig into this thing and start hammering away at what is the truth. I’m confident that I will be exonerated.”
    However, he said he had been warned that if the Division of Human Rights determines there is cause for further investigation, the legal process could last one to three years, well beyond this year’s election.