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Apr 11, 2016 2:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fred Thiele Steps Down As Sag Harbor Village Attorney

Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
Apr 14, 2016 10:02 AM

Fred W. Thiele Jr. has resigned his position as village attorney for Sag Harbor, effective Monday.

Mr. Thiele, who is also a member of the State Assembly, said he had been thinking about stepping down as village attorney after seven years in the post. However, there were certain factors that pushed him to do it sooner rather than later, including the fact that Sag Harbor Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder had “expressed the interest” in hiring a new attorney for both the Planning Board and Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.

“So if you were going to make those changes, might as well make all the changes at once,” Mr. Thiele said on Tuesday, noting that he had been filling in as the attorney for the ARB.

After a board meeting on Tuesday night, Ms. Schroeder declined to comment on Mr. Thiele's assertion. Earlier this week, however, she said she was sad to see Mr. Thiele go. “He does wonderful things for our island,” she said. “He does a wonderful job at what he does.”

Mr. Thiele’s resignation came just one day before a public hearing on two local laws that would revise the residential zoning code in the village—one that would set house size limits based on lot size and one that would regulate the installation of swimming pools.

The revisions, along with a moratorium on construction that was enacted last summer, have proved to be controversial in the village, which had to settle several lawsuits earlier this year with homeowners whose plans were stalled by the moratorium. Nevertheless, Mr. Thiele said that the timing of his resignation had nothing to do with the controversy surrounding the laws or the public hearing on them that was scheduled for Tuesday.

“Frankly, it is a hearing—it is for the public to be heard now,” he said. “All of the work, all of the legislation has been drafted, all of the environmental assessment work has been done, all the legal work is done on this. It’s just an opportunity for the public to be heard.”

Ultimately, the board decided to keep the hearing open for written comment for one week, until Tuesday, April 19.

The pending departure in May of Richard Warren, the village’s environmental planning consultant for 11 years, also played a role in Mr. Thiele’s decision to leave the village, as they had worked closely together for years, and on the code revisions. “It just seemed like the right time,” Mr. Thiele said. “It will give the village the opportunity to make some changes to the planning consultant as well as the village attorney.”

Mr. Thiele said initially that he had been upset to hear that Denise Schoen would be replaced as the attorney for the Planning Board, although on Tuesday she said she will remain in that position, along with her other positions as attorney for the Zoning Board, Harbor Committee, Building Department and as the village’s Justice Court prosecutor. “With me leaving, she will have to continue to fill the slot, but that was a decision that was going to be made, and certainly that was a factor,” Mr. Thiele said of Ms. Schoen filling the village attorney position.

Ms. Schoen, who filled in at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday, explained that the Village Board had kept her on as attorney for the Planning Board because finding another village attorney took precedent. “We have had a good run,” she said. “I think that the board has been happy with my service to them, and, likewise, I am very proud of that board.”

According to Village Trustee Ken O’Donnell, Mr. Thiele’s resignation was not expected. “It is kind of coming as a shock, because I kind of thought that Fred would stick around until at least the moratorium was over and the local laws [are] adopted,” he said. “I am kind of dumbfounded, kind of blindsided. But life will move on.”

“It was an honor and it was something that was a labor of love,” Mr. Thiele said of his tenure as village attorney. “The Village of Sag Harbor, it is where I grew up—to be able to contribute and help as village attorney is something that I enjoy doing, and working with the various boards and employees with the village, I certainly made a number of personal relationships that I am very fond of.”

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Hmmmm, no advance notice and no reason given?

Hmmmmm . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 11, 16 2:55 PM
The article has been updated since the comment above was made.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 11, 16 4:20 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 11, 16 3:40 PM
It's always about the money....
By candyw (20), wainscott on Apr 11, 16 8:51 PM
I really don't see how it was ethical and not a conflict of interest for Mr. Thiele to be an elected representative of the state and an paid agent of a local municipality, how is it not possible that there was some intersection of the two. Just another indicted crook from Albany.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Apr 12, 16 9:11 AM
Musical lawyers? First southampton, next easthampton, now the harbor? Follow the money...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 9:39 AM
Top 5 reasons Fred is leaving, by Fred -

5. Denise Schoen is no longer the SH planning board attorney.
4. Rich Warren requested not to have his contract renewed.
3. The legislative session in Albany. (Not a problem for the last 7 years!)
2. Personal reasons.
1. Regarding the proposed changes to the SH building code - "All the legal work is done. Tomorrow night is basically just listening to the public."

There you have it. Make any sense to anyone?

By Old Sag Harbor Resident (12), Sag Harbor on Apr 12, 16 10:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Oh, I forgot to mention that the mayor made me do it!
By Old Sag Harbor Resident (12), Sag Harbor on Apr 13, 16 6:29 AM
Hmmmmm indeed. Alisha, there must be more to this.

"The news comes just one day before the village board is to hold a hearing on the proposed residential zoning code changes, controversial work done during a building moratorium and that the two men led the charge on. " (EH Star).
By Moby Dick (6), Sag Harbor on Apr 12, 16 10:27 AM
He should also step down as the Chair of the Independence Party - that is also a major conflict.
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 11:13 AM
There were certain factors that led him to resign indeed. Namely that the Village had more lawsuits than you could shake a stick at this past year.

That's enough to wear anyone out.
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Apr 19, 16 7:16 PM
Maybe more to come? Not a good look in an election year.
By Old Sag Harbor Resident (12), Sag Harbor on Apr 20, 16 3:28 PM
Thank you, Fred for for your service to the people of Sag Harbor and NY State.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Apr 22, 16 9:36 AM