Sag Harbor’s Village Hall was packed with police officers on Tuesday evening, there to accuse Mayor Brian Gilbride of having an unspecified personal agenda in connection with the layoff of Officer David Driscoll, the department’s officer of the year in 2012.
The mayor repeatedly asked, without success, for a motion to go into executive session.
Mr. Gilbride’s attempt to keep Southampton Town Police Detective Kevin Gwinn from speaking on the grounds that he is not a village taxpayer was met with catcalls. When the detective, who is vice president of the Southampton Town P.B.A., finally made it to the podium at the audience’s insistence, he began by telling Mayor Gilbride that he had “a great deal of respect” for him. “I don’t want your job,” he said. “These are brutal times.”
“I don’t want it now either,” replied the mayor.
“We get paid for what can happen,” Mr. Gwinn began, and, he said, with summer coming, this was no time for layoffs. “I think it is insulting,” he said. “You are not prepared, sir. No disrespect.”
“You are not going to get help from Southampton,” the detective warned. “We are at bare bones.”
“Did everyone know on your board that a full-time police officer would be let go?” he continued. “Can you poll them now?”
“I don’t have to,” said the mayor.
Kevin Duchemin, a board member, broke in to say that when he voted to approve the general budget, “I was waiting for the police budget to come up,” not realizing, he explained, that the general budget included police expenditures.
Mr. Gwynn then asked Mr. Gilbride again to “revisit the issue.”
“Then it would have been 3 to 1,” said the mayor.
“Can you go back as a group, for this community?”
“I’ll save you the time,” said Mr. Gilbride. “It’s a tight budget. That is a no.”
“I think that is a disgraceful answer, Mr. Gilbride,” said Mr. Gwinn.
Tom Fabiano, chief of the Sag Harbor force, who had been a constant presence at board meetings over the last few months, made “one last appeal not to lose another officer.” He was told to keep his appeal to two minutes.
Before this meeting, the chief told the board he could shave $70,000 from the police budget if necessary, but that Mr. Gilbride has never let him know just how much it would take to keep Officer Driscoll on the street.
The chief told Tuesday night’s audience he’d heard of a federal grant that might help in just such a situation, paying a percentage of a laid-off officer’s salary over a three-year period. He plans to meet this week with a grant-writer to apply for it, he said. The application is due by Monday; grants are awarded in late September.
“Can we keep the position until the grant kicks in?” asked Mr. Duchemin, the newest board member, who is a police officer in the Village of East Hampton.
“No,” said the mayor. “It is not in the budget.”
Mr. Driscoll, who was hired from the Southampton Town force less than three years ago, said after the meeting that he would have never made the switch had he known of its short term. He was accompanied that night by his two little girls and his wife, Lori, who told The Star that she was traumatized by the layoff, wondering how they would pay their mortgage or continue to receive help for one of their children who has special needs. Mr. Driscoll said he had no idea how he would continue to put food on the table for his family.
Patrick Milazzo, the Sag Harbor P.B.A. president, was another speaker. He asked how much it would take to save Mr. Driscoll’s job. “Roughly $183,000,” was the answer.
Citing the numbers of calls to the police in April, the mayor added, “We can get away with 10 people, actually we can get away with 9,” and again asked for a motion to go into executive session.
But Mr. Milazzo went on. “We will not remain silent any longer,” he said. “I think you think it’s a personal issue. As it sits now, we work shifts alone. I worked alone last week. You are setting us up for failure . . . you are not giving us the resources we need to do the job. It’s a serious decision, it needs a little more thought and consideration.”
“It’s what the village can afford,” said Mayor Gilbride. “More than half the tax bill goes to support the police.”
Mr. Duchemin told the mayor that looking at April calls for service “is not what we’re going to be looking at between now and October.”
In other business, board members agreed to waive a building permit renewal fee in the amount of $45,005 for East End Development’s Water Street condominium project, which made the request after a similar waiver was granted to the Bulova watchcase factory.
A law limiting parking to 72 hours in long-term lots, introduced by Robby Stein, was adopted unanimously. Cars have been taking up spots for four or five days in a village where parking is an issue, Mr. Stein had said.