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Jan 29, 2014 4:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Police Officer Suspended Without Pay After Stalking Arrest

Feb 5, 2014 3:19 PM

A Westhampton Beach Village Police officer was suspended—for the fourth time in his eight-year tenure with the department—without pay last week, four months after he was arrested by Suffolk County Police and charged with fourth-degree stalking, a misdemeanor, according to court documents.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to suspend Officer Joseph Pesapane without pay for a maximum of 30 days, as permitted by state law, pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. At the same special meeting called last Wednesday, January 29, board members also voted to hire Steven Kasarda, an attorney with offices in White Plains, to act as the hearing officer.

Mr. Kasarda will draft a report based on the testimony during the upcoming hearing, which could span anywhere from a few days to several months, and will make a recommendation to the board, which, after receiving advice from its counsel, will make the ultimate decision on a possible punishment, board members said.

Village officials, including Mayor Conrad Teller and Deputy Mayor Ralph Urban, declined to discuss those possible options, citing a state law that prohibits them from discussing the matter, and would not confirm if termination would be one of the options. They also declined to speculate if Mr. Pesapane’s prior issues would have any bearing on the latest disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Pesapane was suspended from the police department three times during an investigation into his role in a 2009 incident that involved another officer’s missing handgun. In that incident, Mr. Pesapane and fellow officer Michael Bruetsch, who was forced to retire in 2012 after 15 years of employment or face termination, were charged with lying to Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau investigators regarding the handgun that went missing from police headquarters.

While village officials did not name Mr. Pesapane during last week’s special meeting held at Village Hall—and referred to him in a resolution only as an employee of the village—multiple sources confirmed that he was the subject of the disciplinary action.

Richard Zuckerman, the village’s labor attorney, explained Tuesday that he and all village officials are prohibited by state law from discussing any police officer’s disciplinary proceedings. He did, however, confirm that a hearing regarding an unnamed Westhampton Beach police officer had been scheduled for Thursday, February 6, at Village Hall. The hearing is not open to the public.

Disciplinary hearings are confidential unless the employee in question requests that the proceedings be made public, Mr. Zuckerman said.

Suffolk County Police confirmed last week that Mr. Pesapane was arrested on September 29, 2013, and charged with fourth-degree stalking, a misdemeanor. The alleged incident occurred three days prior and at around 3 a.m., according to court documents. A Suffolk County Police spokesperson said the department could not share additional details about the incident, including where it occurred, in order to protect the victim’s privacy.

The Press submitted a Freedom of Information Law request this week with the Suffolk County Police seeking Mr. Pesapane’s arrest report, though it had not yet been honored as of Wednesday.

Mr. Pesapane’s attorney, Craig Fleischer, did not return calls seeking comment. Rey Mauro, the attorney representing Mr. Pesapane in the upcoming disciplinary proceedings, also did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

When reached last Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the board voted on his suspension, Mr. Pesapane directed all questions to his attorneys. But when asked about the criminal charge, Mr. Pesapane said: “My comment on the situation is that the complainant has no credibility whatsoever. This is a lie and a falsehood.”

Mr. Zuckerman, speaking generally and without referring to any specific employee, explained Tuesday that criminal justice proceedings occur independently from disciplinary hearings. He also noted that the burden of proof is lower for employers during disciplinary hearings than it is for prosecutors in criminal cases.

“A person can only be found guilty in a criminal proceeding if the person is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which basically means that no one else could have done the bad thing,” he said. “A disciplinary hearing is different in that the employer only has to prove that it is more likely than not that the bad thing happened.”

Mr. Zuckerman also noted that “a finding of guilty in criminal court does not necessary imply a finding of guilty in the disciplinary proceedings, and vice-versa.”

Mr. Pesapane was arraigned in 1st District Court in Central Islip on September 30 before Judge G. Ann Spelman and released on his own recognizance. Judge Spelman also issued a temporary restraining order for the alleged victim, according to court records. The charges are still pending.

Mr. Teller said he was aware of Mr. Pesapane’s arrest, though he declined to say when he and other Village Board members first learned of the officer’s run-in with the law. The mayor also noted that all village employees, including police officers, are required by law to disclose to the village if and when they are arrested, and explain why. Mr. Teller declined to comment further.

Westhampton Beach Village Police Chief Ray Dean also declined to comment on the incident, explaining that he is prohibited from commenting on disciplinary proceeding involving his employees.

Village Clerk Elizabeth Lindtvit said Mr. Pesapane was paid $127,285 in 2013. He was hired in January 2006.

The previous disciplinary hearings were held in response to an outside police investigation that concluded that Mr. Bruetsch “came into possession” of the personal handgun belonging to Village Police Officer Steven McManus that had been left in his locker at police headquarters while he was on vacation. According to the same confidential report prepared by the Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB), and obtained by The Press, Mr. Bruetsch had been accused of three counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer and lying five times to investigators who were brought in to get to the bottom of the incident.

Mr. Pesapane, meanwhile, was charged with lying to investigators regarding the missing gun after he discussed the issue with Mr. Bruetsch prior to meeting with internal affairs investigators regarding the missing handgun, according to the same report. Additional charges were later added, including two counts of making false statements and one count of intentionally providing false or incomplete information to investigators, Mr. Teller said at the time.

Mr. Pesapane was first suspended in 2009 while the IAB investigated charges that he had lied about the missing gun incident. He was suspended again in 2010 after additional charges, including making false statements and intentionally providing false or incomplete information to investigators, were leveled against him. In 2011, the Village Board suspended Mr. Pesapane without pay for the third time as punishment for those charges. He returned to work full-time later that year.

In 2007, Mr. Pesapane was named “Officer of the Year” by the Westhampton Beach Police Department for the bravery he displayed while off-duty in chasing and arresting a man who fled the scene after striking and injuring a bicyclist in Coram.

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Wow, you can lose a handgun, THEN lie about it... And keep your job as a cop? That's it, I'm quitting my job...
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Jan 29, 14 5:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
i always say if i could do it all over i would have a state or gov job...
By llimretaw (118), watermill on Jan 29, 14 8:00 PM
this guy is "Officer of the Decade"
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Jan 30, 14 12:37 PM
From the well publicized history of this officer's disciplinary problems -- I can't imagine, at this point, what it takes to get fired.
By Paramarine (28), Raleigh, NC on Jan 29, 14 5:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
This weeks suspended teacher or cop is Joe Pesepane. This officer has already been caught lying about a stolen hand gun. Is this really the best guy WHB could find to be a cop for 126k? The union tried their hardest not to give up this guys name, but it was mentioned in open court. There are plenty of deserving people on the police list that deserve the job. This guy needs to go, because he is arrogant, and thinks he doesn't need to follow the law.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 29, 14 6:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
Fourth time suspended? What kind of oversight does this Village have in its management of its employees? Another reason why the Mayor has to Resign. As the top law enforcement official in the Village his management of his employees is a disgrace and will probably cost this Village a lawsuit as a result of this officers actions. Keep up the good work Mayor!
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jan 29, 14 6:32 PM
hey realistic, it's not the town or village - it's the union that protects poor employees.
By for truth and justice (11), Westhampton on Jan 29, 14 7:58 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By TO BAD (24), hampton bay on Jan 29, 14 8:34 PM
Har Har Har

You just called someone a "loser" in all cases and misspelled it!

I bet you screen name was supposed to be "Too" bad.

I was feeling down but now I am laughing out loud…thanks
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 29, 14 10:53 PM
The union protects the police department employees because they are paid to. Why is the Westhampton Beach Board of Trustees protecting this employee? They should terminate him. Are they that afraid of lawsuits from the union?
By fritzdaddy (35), southampton on Jan 29, 14 8:37 PM
WHB Trustees are protecting the officer too by omitting his name in the resolution. He'll get placed in another area OR they'll "quietly" place him on desk duty and reinstate his pay. DId I mention the ridiculous amt of OT they rake in each year? what happened to transparency in gov't.
By Lovelylynn (1), Eastville on Jan 29, 14 9:02 PM
Why exactly does WHB have a police force anyway? During the off season there is barely anyone there.
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 29, 14 10:54 PM
Some one needs to be paid 130k a year to loose guns and stalk people....
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jan 30, 14 8:59 AM
So this guy was arrested about 4 months ago and he continued on the force until now??? I feel so safe.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Jan 30, 14 7:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Jan 30, 14 7:57 AM
Not defending anyone ! But he hasn't been convicted .
The village can't fire him for an allegation . I agree with the suspension pending the outcome of the criminal charge .
By Urit (24), Quogue on Jan 30, 14 11:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
Coast Guard, New York State Troopers, Suffolk County Police, Southampton Town Police, Bay Constables, Westhampton Beach Village Police...seems like a lot of law enforcement, doesn't it?
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Jan 30, 14 11:59 AM
Not when you understand that they all have different jurisdictions and different duties. And you forgot Suffolk County Sheriff!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 14 2:08 PM
That's a bunch of nonsense! 99% of this country is covered by a county sheriff or state trooper. We don't need these over lapping little police forces.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 30, 14 3:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
99% is a bit of hyperbole and that's because areas like upstate NY or the midwest are huge podunk counties with 1 person every few square miles so yea they only need a sheriff or a state trooper.

When you get densley populated you need different police forces for all of the jurisdictions you create (and this is generally something supported by the taxpayers).

For example, the taxpayers in WH Dunes electively choose to have their Constables (note they aren't "police officers"). ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 14 3:47 PM
Don't state troopers have jurisdiction anywhere in the state?
By bubby (236), southampton on Jan 30, 14 5:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
They can pull you over anywhere if they want - but for all intents and purposes they don't
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 14 9:08 AM
What's that saying? "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me"?
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jan 30, 14 1:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
I lived in an area with a lot denser population than eastern long island. They had the state police on the highway, and the sheriff's dept covering the rest. They also had a central county school district with one superintendant, and a very small administration. We have overlapping services costing us millions for no reason except to employ people. Time to cut the FAT!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 30, 14 9:18 PM
4 members liked this comment
Care to name this "densely populated" area so we can some independent research? And as I stated above - the taxpayers bear some responsibility or the "fat". WHD residents choose to have their own constables. Do you recall the Sag Harbor discussions regarding getting rid of their police force and the increased costs involved? As a Southampton Town resident you pay less in police services than a comprable property in Brookhavne Town would for Suffolk Police services.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 14 9:26 AM
Why don't you leave your computer screen and you can see how areas operate with much less than us just fine. Why do we have 4 police tahoes at 60k each driving fire chiefs around? We do we have 8 cops every Sunday at the Boardy Barn? Why do we have some cops making more than the governor? This is greed with nothing having to do with security or safety. Check out Florida I won't tell you what county, but trying educating yourself Nature on how you don't need ten police forces for 50k people.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 6, 14 6:29 PM
Maybe we should start taking personal responsibility for the people we vote into office who in turn make these decisions... I for one am OK with a Fire Chief having a department issued Tahoe. If he had a Smart Car would that make you feel better? What would the impact be on your tax bill?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 14 7:47 PM
Because the governor doesn't deserve minimum wage during his never to be obtained bid for the White House.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 9, 14 4:10 PM
FYI Bay Constables and Court Officers are part of the police department . Code Enforcement falls under Town Attorney . Trustees have no authority or control over anything, which is probably a good thing in light of recent developments
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Feb 13, 14 7:52 AM
Starting to see a tsunami of corruption being reported across the country and can only assume it's the tip of the iceberg. The public employee system is primed for taking advantage. They have been made untouchable.

By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 14 8:09 AM
"Village Clerk Elizabeth Lindtvit said Mr. Pesapane was paid $127,285 in 2013. He was hired in January 2006." -So that's after only 7 years of service. Kind of ridiculous don't ya think?? The pay scale for these jobs are out of control. The Tax payers are being shafted left and right.

By fourthnecker (3), east quogue on Feb 8, 14 2:44 PM