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Jul 14, 2010 12:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village public safety dispatcher may retire after computer investigation

Jul 14, 2010 12:00 PM

A Southampton Village Police Department dispatcher who downloaded approximately a dozen pornographic photos and videos on his work computer at police headquarters likely will be allowed to retire in the coming weeks to allow the village to avoid the time and expense of a disciplinary hearing, Mayor Mark Epley said on Tuesday.

The mayor and Village Board met with Police Chief William Wilson Jr. last Thursday, July 8, to discuss the matter, and this week the mayor confirmed that the employee in question is a male public safety dispatcher who has been with the department for more than 20 years. Although no definitive plan of action has been decided yet, Mr. Epley—who also serves as the village’s police commissioner—said the question of the dispatcher’s fate rests with the employee himself, and that he is expected to file his retirement papers before the end of July.

“I feel like it’s going to resolve itself,” Mr. Epley said Tuesday. “If you can get someone to retire or resign, it saves everybody time and money,” he added, citing the costs of drawing up charges, hiring a lawyer and holding a disciplinary hearing.

The mayor added that he has “no idea” what charges could even be filed against the dispatcher if it were to go that route, though it’s clear that what the employee did was not acceptable behavior.

After the investigation of the incident was launched, Chief Wilson issued a general order to the department outlining inappropriate computer usage, though the mayor noted that using municipality-owned computers to view pornography was never considered acceptable. “No one’s paying you to look at stuff like that,” he said.

Mr. Epley added that he’s disappointed in the actions of the dispatcher and two employees who already left the department.

The pornography was uncovered during a wide-ranging investigation of department computers that the chief launched on April 8. The investigation also turned up sexually explicit e-mail messages and internet-based chats transmitted over several months on two other department computers that were shared by several department staff members, but no current employees were involved in those exchanges, the mayor noted.

Another public safety dispatcher, Amy Hertling, resigned unexpectedly the day after the investigation was launched, and Sergeant Arthur Schucht filed his retirement papers shortly thereafter.

Chief Wilson declined to discuss the matter in detail, citing legal constraints, but did note that the Village Board sits in final determination in reference to disciplinary matters.

The chief may make recommendations to the Village Board, but ultimately the board serves as the village’s disciplinary panel and makes decisions based on the chief’s recommendations.

“Disciplinary matters and litigation are extremely time-consuming and extremely expensive, and if an agreement can be reached between an employee and an employer in reference to resignation or retirement, that is always a favorable outcome,” Chief Wilson added, also noting that he is confident that matter will be “resolved quickly and hopefully efficiently that is for the good of everybody involved.”

Trustee Nancy McGann said this week that punishment is called for.

“I feel that if that’s going on, we need to know about it and people need to be disciplined,” she said Tuesday. “Morally speaking, it’s terrible. Secondly, it’s a waste of taxpayer money if they’re sitting there supposed to be doing something and they’re doing something else. It’s unacceptable and very disappointing.”

When asked how she felt about the expenses that could mount via a disciplinary hearing, she replied, “I would hate to see it cost the village money, when it was not a good decision on [the employee’s] part. If I were to leave, I would go quietly,” she added, reflecting on what she would do if she were the implicated employee.

Other board members were more reluctant to discuss the issue, and those who did said they would follow whatever recommendations Chief Wilson makes.

Trustee Richard Yastrzemski called the situation “unfortunate” but said the chief’s new orders regarding computer usage are a “remedy.” In terms of discipline, Mr. Yastrzemski said, “Whatever the chief of police thinks is the proper course of action, that’s what I go by.”

Trustee Paul Robinson praised the chief for his handling of the probe: “We’re confident that the chief is handling things the right way for the department.”

Trustee Bonnie Cannon said she was “letting the powers that be,” namely Mr. Epley and Chief Wilson, address the issue.

The board will likely discuss the issue again, but a date for that discussion has not yet been set.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jul 20, 10 3:08 PM
Is this an appropriate comment, SirHampton?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 20, 10 3:53 PM
I wonder if these Civil Servants were using PVNX Pure Vanilla Exchange to make anonymous purchases of pornography? If so then this would open up a completely different kind of investigation of governmental officials not mentioned in this story.
By Scooby (12), Southampton on Jul 20, 10 9:22 PM