Drop Penny Charges

Natural resources director is planning to retire

    Disciplinary charges against Larry Penny, East Hampton Town’s longtime director of Natural Resources, which resulted in a 30-day suspension without pay on Dec. 7, were completely dropped by the town board last week following “input from leading members of the community” and “improved communication” that revealed Mr. Penny was considering retirement, according to a press release issued by the town attorney’s office and Mr. Penny’s attorney.
    The decision about when to retire will be left to Mr. Penny, according to the press release, which says that “the town board is not interested in interfering with a timetable of Mr. Penny’s choosing.”
    The natural resources director had faced 16 counts of misconduct, incompetence, and insubordination, which could have resulted in his termination.
    The town claimed that Mr. Penny had failed to properly oversee and complete work done pursuant to environmental permits and grants issued to the town and to properly supervise his department’s employees and financial matters. In addition, the charges alleged that he had failed to heed a directive from Bill Wilkinson, the town supervisor, to dispose of animal carcasses he had collected for research and stored in a freezer in the basement of the building housing his office.
    Mr. Penny hired Thomas Horn, an attorney and former town employee, to represent him, and a hearing was to have been scheduled on the charges.
    “Now, after frank discussion between both sides, the town board believes it is in the best interest of everyone to close the matter,” according to the release.
    Additional comments would be limited, it said, “given that a person’s plans for his career and record of employment, even for a civil servant, [are] still a private matter by law and custom.”
    “Everyone involved is satisfied with the behind-the-scenes communication, explanation, and rationale,” Mr. Horn said Monday.
    Efforts several years ago to reorganize town departments and eliminate Mr. Penny’s position resulted in a public outcry in support of him as well as a suggestion that the town could be charged with age discrimination.
    “For some time now, Larry has had a timetable,” Mr. Horn said this week of Mr. Penny’s plans to retire. While he has not set a date to do so, the press release discussed his hopes for his successor. “I hope the next man or woman is a scientist/naturalist interested in doing justice for nature and the environment,” Mr. Penny said in the release. In addition to his work for the town, Mr. Penny has also built up a loyal readership through his “Nature Notes” column in The East Hampton Star.
    According to the statement, Supervisor Wilkinson “noted the nearly three decades of dedicated service to the Town of East Hampton by Larry. His efforts to preserve the natural resources of the town have had a direct impact on the quality of life of the residents of the town.”