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Nov 14, 2012 9:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Pearce Takes Over Southampton PD After Wilson Departure

Nov 14, 2012 11:06 AM

Although his resignation does not take effect until December 1, the Southampton Town Board this week stripped Police Chief William Wilson Jr. of his authority and bestowed command of the Town Police Department on Captain Robert Pearce, whom, it is speculated, is in line to become the next police chief.

As the department’s executive officer, Capt. Pearce actually has been in command of the department since October 25, because Chief Wilson has been out of town, including during the chaotic days during and after Hurricane Sandy swept through the area.

Before the Town Board unanimously accepted his resignation last Thursday, November 1, the chief had informed them he did not intend to return to work prior to his resignation taking effect. He had initially been scheduled to return from a three-week vacation on November 16, but the chief said this week that he had decided to leave his post before he went on vacation. He has already accepted a new position, he said—although he would not say what the job is.

A Stormy Tenure

The transfer of command to Capt. Pearce brings an end to the tumultuous 18 months of Chief Wilson’s leadership of the Town Police. It was a tenure that included his requesting that most of the department’s top officers be summarily replaced, the disbanding of an undercover unit and the suspension of its commanding officer and one of its former detectives, and an apparently ongoing investigation by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office that has already led to the release of two convicted felons from prison because of questions about the circumstances surrounding the cases built against them by town undercover officers.

Chief Wilson frequently butted heads with Republican and Conservative members of the board—board members Chris Nuzzi, Christine Scalera and Jim Malone—over policy, staffing and technical changes he wanted to make, and he traded barbs with Mr. Nuzzi as he withdrew this week.

“I accepted the position with every intention of implementing change within the Southampton Town Police Department immediately upon my employment with the P.D. And then, for 17 months, I was stymied from making any progress by partisan, political obstructionists,” Chief Wilson said. “When you couple that with the political discord that goes on among the board—the board majority clearly not supporting modernization or progression of the police department—I believe that my decision to retire should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the police department for the last 18 months.”

Mr. Nuzzi, who voted in support of hiring Chief Wilson, acknowledged the discord with the chief and within the board, but said it was fueled primarily by the chief’s failures as an administrator and the support for him that other members maintained even amid the “upset” of the last nine months.

“The Town Board was anticipating a more open and responsive relationship with the police chief when he was hired,” Mr. Nuzzi said this week. “Come to find out, there was a serious lack of communication on a lot of matters of finances and personnel. His insular management style and lack of communication and respect for the Town Board … was not what we had hoped for.”

Chief Vs. Board

The struggle between board members and the chief began almost immediately after he was hired in May 2011 by a 4-1 vote of the Town Board—only former Republican Councilwoman Nancy Graboski voted against the move, in which the board went outside the town department for its next chief rather than promoting longtime second-in-command Captain Anthony Tenaglia.

The chief said the board fought him over requests for technological upgrades that he said were essential to modernize the department and increase its long-term efficiency. The departing chief came under fire from Mr. Nuzzi and other board members for climbing overtime costs in the last two years, which he blamed on shortages of officers and the additional demands of Hurricane Irene in 2011. He also recommended early in his tenure that several high-ranking veteran officers should be forced to retire—a move, Mr. Nuzzi claims, that was made only because the officers had been part of the previous department administration.

Mr. Nuzzi pointed to a recent failure by the chief to answer board members’ requests for information on overtime costs. A work session on October 25 at which the chief had pledged to provide a breakdown of overtime hours worked by town officers wasn’t attended by the chief because he left town two days before his scheduled vacation.

Mr. Nuzzi said the failures were not only on the part of the chief but on the part of other board members who failed to hold the chief’s feet to the fire more often.

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What a tangled web we weave.

And all behind closed doors . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 9, 12 5:18 PM
Pearce should of had it all along !!
By carson (79), southampton on Nov 9, 12 6:01 PM
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Nov 13, 12 9:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Absolutely the right choice! Congratulations to Bob Pearce!
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Nov 9, 12 7:21 PM
Congratulations to Bob Pearce!

By sandbox (6), southampton on Nov 9, 12 7:33 PM
Bad move. Giving control back to the good ole boys. The deparment will be going back to the "doesn't play well with others mentality" All western departments want nothing to do with Southampton Town P.D. as a result of the management "chief overton and boyz". Chief Wilson was trying to change things but, was faced with huge oposition from Malone and Nuzzi. The department was improving under Chief Wilson. It was an uphill battle to get the small improvements. Now it will be a cliff dive back to ...more
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Nov 9, 12 8:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dear god. Wilson WAS gone throughout the entire Hurricane Sandy and subsequent nor'easter emergency. Barring incapacity, what excuse can he offer for such irresponsible conduct?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 9, 12 8:52 PM
HHS- he was on a scheduled vacation, and was not even in the country. He worked 72 hours straight during Irene. And I am sure had he not been away he would have worked the same during sandy. Get a life!
By sunnydays (43), Hampton Bays on Nov 9, 12 9:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
I suppose that it would be too much to expect him to return from his vacation early due to the emergency, especially now that we know that he was not planning on coming back - - - ever.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 9, 12 10:27 PM
HHS, in all fairness to Chief Wilson, if his relationship with the SHT PD and the Town Board had deteriorated to the point it appears to have gotten to, perhaps it was a class act NOT to come back and assume command. Your hindsight in this regard appears to be Monday morning quarterbacking IMO, and not up to your usual standards.

There are probably lots of unknown details to this mess which will never see the light of day (a separate issue), which made the Chief's absence not only desirable, ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 9, 12 10:37 PM
Where do you get your information, I have information too, he was home and it was a last minute vacation taken after the case against the lieutenant fell apart because it was a baseless case, brought by a desperate man.
That he was forced to resign is poetic justice, great strategy though waiting for election night to drop the news, sounds like an Obama Friday night info dump.
By Jm225316 (18), Holbrook on Nov 10, 12 10:53 AM
I Heard the former chief will be nominated as the Secretary Of Homeland Security, following in the footsteps of his idol, former NYC police commissioner Bernard Kerik :)
By lotaluck (1), Holbrook on Nov 9, 12 11:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
Bob Pearce is a wonderful community mind leader and always present for duty !
By james L. Fogarty (6), remsenburg on Nov 10, 12 8:59 AM
I hope Pearce forgets everything he learned about leading from Overton and Tenaglia because then he might have a chance. It appears he might be the lesser of two evils especially with the Republicans fast track Kiernan's discipline, maybe he'll be in charge of the paperclips or Nuzzi's wireless network in town hall. Republican Politics has made a mockery of the town and Police Department.
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Nov 10, 12 8:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
NO NO NO Wilson is the new Southampton Village Police Commis. starting Jan 1, 2013!!!!
By SHTownHB (75), Hampton Bays on Nov 11, 12 5:41 PM
Tony Bouza or Norm Stamper if for only a year.
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on Nov 12, 12 7:20 AM
lets see how long it takes the new Chief to get more cops and people promoted, unlike Chief Wilson who the board for some unknown reason disliked and didnt give him anything to work with....Hey at least he bettered himself with a more comfortable retirement then he would of had, so the real question is whos laughing now.....Good luck to the new Chief, and sorry to the boys in blue, it appears through the posts on here you will be going backwards once again.....
By BCHBUM11968 (81), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 14, 12 10:41 AM
It is to bad that the Southampton town board did not let the police chief run his department and they run theres.
I wonder about there voting to let Lt kiernan return to active duty and who can trust him and the town gave him a slap on the wrist.
I am suprised at that two of the ladies went along with the others to bring him back.
By taxpayer1 (72), Southampton on Nov 14, 12 8:32 PM
You can wonder all you want, the facts of the case were baseless, brought by a desperate man. The Lieutenant is a fine civil servant who did not deserve the dis graceful treatment he received. We are lucky to have someone of his honesty and moral character serving the people of this community. Those are the facts folks plain and simple.
By Jm225316 (18), Holbrook on Nov 14, 12 11:24 PM
By carson (79), southampton on Nov 15, 12 2:06 PM
Why don't you find out the facts then and report back to us. You have been mislead by the media and by others who have posted in recent months.
The news accounts have been erroneous from the start.
They have manipulated by a
Seek out the truth from your town board members, you have that right as a concerned citizen, instead of throwing out further propaganda.
By Jm225316 (18), Holbrook on Nov 15, 12 4:09 PM
You seem to be in the know please do tell so it can be cleared up and things can be moved forward, and truly clear the reputation of Lt. Kiernan
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Nov 16, 12 9:39 AM
Nothing to else to tell, all worked out just fine thanks!
See you at the bar!
By Jm225316 (18), Holbrook on Nov 16, 12 10:40 AM
Why would u know the facts. Sounds like u have fallen victim to what certain people want u to hear. If you know the facts, then tell us all what they are and who you are. Otherwise continue with your clean-up campaign or just move on. Sounds like u are a little to close to this one to be objective. He was dirty as is most cops !
By carson (79), southampton on Nov 15, 12 8:48 PM
Blanket statements about the police serve no purpose Carson. No need too denigrate dedicated men and women who sacrifice their lives on a daily basis to uphold the constitution, so that even ignorant people like yourself can have the freedom to post outrageous and unfortunate statements. Again go seek out the truth yourself. Case closed
By Jm225316 (18), Holbrook on Nov 16, 12 9:39 AM
When are Nuzzis feet going to be held to the fire, He voted for this Chief and then with the advice, Im sure of old time Republicans and his buddy Kiernan, made his job so difficult he quit. I hope the public does remember the bickering and bs that this town board has done.....the only people effected by all of this are the residents who vote them into those chairs. The residents Im sure should be relieved to know that Nuzzi is as honest and moral as Kiernan.....Hey maybe thatll be his campaign ...more
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Nov 16, 12 9:34 AM
Was Wilson forced out or did he really resign? I've heard he had some "dirty laundry." I wonder if Captain Pearce will investigate?

It might be best to just go forward. Pearce is a terrific guy. This is good news for the good people of the East End.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Nov 18, 12 3:36 AM
As long as politics is in play in the police department theres plenty of dirty laundry all over, Im sure thats why Wilson was given such a hard time by the Republicans, they didn't want theres aired out. Only hope is Spota comes in and takes care of it all but by now Im sure its unlikely. Pearce is a terrific guy.....good news, we'll see about that.....only hope is he can think and act for himself and not allow Tenaglia and others within the department to pull his strings
By mrobin (121), North Sea on Nov 18, 12 2:20 PM
Great editorial this week in the Press about "the rudderless nature of the town and its police department."

The next election is not that far away, thankfully.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 23, 12 2:22 PM