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Sep 1, 2009 7:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Protest at The Star

Sep 1, 2009 7:34 PM

About 50 people gathered outside the offices of The East Hampton Star on Monday afternoon to protest the publication of an article that they say sullied the reputation of East Hampton Town building inspector Don Sharkey just a month after his death at age 47.

The article, written by Leigh Goodstein and published on August 3 on the paper’s front page, suggested that Mr. Sharkey selectively interpreted the town code by not requiring the necessary planning review for the development of properties owned by the billionaire Randy Lerner.

Joe Gonzalez, a close friend of Mr. Sharkey, organized the protest with the help of Steve Lilja and Mr. Sharkey’s other good friends.

“Donny’s dead. That’s the main focus of our anger, as these shots were taken at him after he died when he couldn’t defend himself,” said Mr. Lilja. “What we’re trying to do is speak for our dead friend.”

“We’re just looking to send a message to Mr. Rattray about how upset we are about this and we’re not 
just going to let him get away with this,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

David Rattray, the editor of the paper, stood outside the building as the crowd of protesters approached. He debated mostly with Carl Schank, who demanded that The Star issue a front-page apology.

“You definitely insinuate he was in Randy’s pocket,” Mr. Schank said. “We think you jumped the gun.”

“I really understand where these guys are coming from,” Mr. Rattray said later as the protesters dispersed. “They were friends of Don Sharkey’s. But it’s not really a story about Don Sharkey. It’s a story about the functioning of town government.”

As to Mr. Sharkey not having a chance to respond to the Star’s investigation?

“It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Rattray said. Helen Rattray, the paper’s publisher and former editor, agreed, adding that the paper’s investigation began when Mr. Sharkey was alive, but the reporter was not ready to interview him when he died. In an investigation of government practices, “you don’t ask your questions up front and tell them what you’re doing,” she said.

Mr. Sharkey’s friends and colleagues said they spoke for him on Monday since he could not. “He fought for everyone,” said Britton Bistrian, “and did a lot for the little people.”

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Free speech? Freedom of the press? Was anything materially false or incorrectly reported?
By EH rez (2), East Hampton on Sep 2, 09 2:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hey EH rez - yes, as a matter of fact some things in that article were "materially false" AND "incorrectly reported." There were a LOT of missing "facts' to back up the Star's "gossip" in that article (I didn't see one person, other than Tiffany Scarlato who supported or agreed with the Star's position in that article that there may have been "wrongdoing" on the part of the building inspector when issued permits and a CO for the two projects in Amagansett) and then, as a matter of FACT - Town Attorney ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 5, 09 10:58 PM
Don Sharkey was a nice guy. He did not deserve to be ripped like that right after death. no class
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Sep 9, 09 10:04 AM