Village Policing Debate Rages On

Mayor wants a part-timer, chief and board say look at the bigger picture

    Accusations flew and voices were raised during a disagreement between Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and village board members last Thursday over policing the village. The exchange came after an agenda item on the hiring of a part-time police officer, an action supported by the mayor, but the discussion really began before the meeting with an e-mail from Kevin Duchemin, a board member and an East Hampton Village police sergeant, who expressed concern that a part-time police officer who was not very familiar with the village had been on duty by himself at one point last week.

    The special meeting last Thursday was expected to be about this weekend’s HarborFest events. Tom Fabiano, the village’s police chief, was the only one in attendance aside from the press.

    At the meeting, Mr. Duchemin asked the mayor why he would hire a part-time officer with so few days left in the summer season when he had refused to hire David Driscoll in that capacity after Officer Driscoll was let go as part of the mayor’s efforts to downsize the department earlier this year.

    Ken O’Donnell, another board member, agreed with Mr. Duchemin that it was a bit late to hire a part-time officer. He said later that the mayor’s decision on Officer Driscoll, who was named cop of the year, along with threats to disband the force, were the reasons he got involved with village government.

    “Can we agree that this whole situation has to be addressed before we hire someone?” he asked the board. Going forward, what makes sense, he said, is a long-term plan including “how many part-timers we need.” The board should look 5 and 10 years down the road, taking into consideration additional policing that might be required when developments at the Bulova watchcase factory, 21 Water Street, and Ferry Road are complete and occupied, he said.

    “There is no plan,” he said. “Foresight is needed.” He also expressed concerns about nine recent burglaries in the village.

    When Ed Deyermond, another board member, asked Chief Fabiano about the need for a part-timer, the chief said that he was all set with the staff he had scheduled for now with two part-timers.

    “We’ve always had three people,” said Mayor Gilbride. Mr. Duchemin mentioned that he saw Nicole Petykowski, another part-time officer on the list for backup, at work recently.

    “She worked for us for years,” but she “is not sworn in, not on our civil service rolls,” said Mayor Gilbride.

    Pushing for the hiring of the new part-timer, Garett P. Lake, Mayor Gilbride said of Ms. Petykowski, “We helped her out, she worked a few shifts . . . disappeared for years.”

    “Here is a guy that is qualified. I happen to think we need him,” Mayor Gilbride said, adding later that he did not know the candidate but that he is working as a police officer assigned to Sagaponack.

    Mr. Deyermond agreed there should be a discussion about scheduling, and why the village wouldn’t use the “girl that used to work for us,” and who Chief Fabiano confirmed had been on duty last month.

    “She has not worked for the village for years,” said Mayor Gilbride. Chief Fabiano confirmed that Ms. Petykowski had been on duty recently.

    “It’s bull,” said Mayor Gilbride. “You continue to play these games.” The mayor then accused Mr. Duchemin of “acting like a P.B.A. president.”

    “Want me to talk as a P.B.A. president?” asked Mr. Duchemin. “We use part-timers as beach patrol and foot patrol, that’s it.”

    Mr. Deyermond agreed that the village needs a long-term plan before moving forward with any changes to the department. “It’s the end of the summer. . . . I am not ready to do anything on this. . . . There are a lot of questions here.”

    “It’s my purview,” said Mayor Gilbride. “I’m Tom’s liaison.” He explained that the part-time hire would be “another person who can jump in . . . someone else to call. . . . It keeps overtime down,” he said. “Overtime is $90 an hour, this is only $23 an hour.”

    Chief Fabiano said that he is not comfortable replacing a full-time position with a part-timer, who may not even be able to use a car and is limited by civil service laws to working only 20 hours a week.

    The chief also expressed his frustration that his detective, who also works on patrol, has been having to make trips UpIsland for a confidential case. It is creating overtime, the chief said, because he cannot investigate while working the midnight shift. He said later that the mayor had also prohibited the detective from taking a car home, calling it a “perk.”

    “This is not time sensitive,” Chief Fabiano said of the part-time hire. “Let’s think about this.” But he also insisted that it was a non-issue. “We’ve always had part timers.”

    “But not replacing full-timers,” said the chief.

    Robby Stein, a board member, said that even if the village hired a part-timer, Chief Fabiano would be under no obligation to put him or her on the schedule. While conceding that there are “bigger questions” at hand and agreeing that a larger discussion was necessary, he asked the chief, “Would it be to your advantage to have another part-timer to call if you needed?”

    At this point, Chief Fabiano said, it’s not necessary.

    “I’m not prepared to vote on this, I will make motion to table,” said Mr. Deyermond. “Tom said it’s covered . . . Harborfest, music festival . . . chief said he is prepared.”

    Mr. O’Donnell seconded the motion, saying he wanted a “game plan.”

    “I’m opposed . . . it’s bull,” repeated the mayor. To Mr. O’Donnell he said, “You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth,” referring to his mention of recent break-ins. 

    Chief Fabiano said he was willing to continue the discussion, “whenever you want, pick a day and do something.” No date was set for further discussion.