Larsen Lawsuit Dismissed as Untimely

As he stepped down as East Hampton Village police chief, Jerry Larsen was praised at a village board meeting in January 2017 by both Richard Lawler, center, and Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., right. Later that year, he sued both of them, and the village. Christopher Walsh

The lawsuit filed by Jerry Larsen, a former East Hampton Village police chief, against Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., Richard Lawler, a village trustee, and the village in general was dismissed by a federal judge on Sept. 24 on the basis of the statute of limitations.

The suit, initiated in August of last year, claimed the mayor, who is a retired East Hampton Village police officer, and Mr. Lawler abused their positions and violated the village’s ethics code by prohibiting Mr. Larsen from taking outside security work in the village, while they were engaged in businesses that provided similar services. 

The suit alleged that in 2009 the mayor and the board directed the then-police chief to divest ownership in his security company, Protec, to refrain from doing business within the village and hiring any village employees, and to shut down the blood and alcohol-testing division of his company. The suit claimed that as a direct result, between 2009 and 2010, Protec’s gross profit decreased approximately 76 percent. Mr. Larsen was seeking damages and attorney’s fees.

On Nov. 1 of last year, Anne Leahey filed a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of Mayor Rickenbach, Mr. Lawler, and the village, arguing that New York’s three-year statute of limitations on a claim of personal injury had run out.

Judge Joseph Bianco of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York ultimately agreed with her, saying that since the alleged actions took place in 2009, Mr. Larsen would have had to file the lawsuit by 2012. He noted that “the plaintiff did not file the lawsuit until almost five years later.”

Judge Bianco provided Mr. Larsen with an opportunity to demonstrate why the statute of limitations should not apply, but on Oct. 15, James Wicks, Mr. Larsen’s attorney, informed the judge that an amended complaint would not be filed. 

“The court’s ruling addressed only the procedural issue of timing, and did not decide the case on the underlying merits,” Mr. Wicks said via email on Friday. His client decided not to to take the matter further, he said, after weighing the costs and determining that one of his goals, bringing “transparency to the practices within the village government,” had been achieved.  

On Monday, Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, provided a statement from the mayor and the village board on the case, which said Mr. Larsen had failed to establish his case on the merits. In the statement, Mayor Rickenbach said the village “steadfastly stands by its policies and procedures.” He referred to Mr. Larsen as a “disgruntled and litigious former employee,” and said he hoped “Mr. Larsen will finally discontinue his spiteful actions against the village.”