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Aug 19, 2009 2:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach does not want to offer police chief a new contract

Aug 19, 2009 2:22 PM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board wants Police Chief Ray Dean to continue leading the 16-officer police department without a formal contract and, instead, sign a “letter of agreement” that outlines the terms and conditions of his employment, according to the village’s labor counsel.

Attorney Richard Zuckerman of Lamb & Barnosky LLP in Melville said this week that if Chief Dean signs off on the agreement, the municipality would have more control over his working conditions. Chief Dean’s contract expired late last year and board members and attorneys have been involved in heated negotiations since then.

“The village would ultimately like to treat the chief as it would any other managerial employee, meaning he would not have a contract and the village would set his terms and hours,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “They want a letter of understanding with him, not a contract.”

But Chief Dean’s attorney, Michael Axelrod of Certilman, Balin, Adler and Hyman, LLP in East Meadow, said his client would never accept such a proposal.

“There’s not a chance in hell that I’m going to give up a contract for a letter of agreement,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Why would anyone do that?”

When reached on Friday, Chief Dean declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations involving his expired contract.

Although his contract expired at the end of last year, it is still in effect due to a clause in the document and will still remain valid until a new contract or agreement has been ironed out. The chief currently earns $149,624 a year and receives another $55,000 in benefits, figures that are on par with other police chiefs on the East End. As per his contract, which was signed in 2004 and retroactive to his first day on the job in 1999, Chief Dean works 40 hours per week and receives compensatory time for any overtime hours.

Mr. Zuckerman said village officials want to have more oversight into the day-to-day activities of the police chief, something that can be better achieved with a letter of agreement. The letter of agreement would be the equivalent of a one-year contract that Village Board members would have to approve during their annual organizational meeting, according to Mr. Zuckerman.

Though most of the East End police chiefs have formal contracts, many police chiefs in other parts of the state are retained using letters of agreement, Mr. Zuckerman said.

“Law does not require there be a contract,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “They don’t want a contract because they want more control over his salary, benefits, hours of work, what he does, when he does it, and for whom he does it,” he added, referring to Chief Dean.

Mayor Conrad Teller, who worked as police chief for both Westhampton Beach and Southampton Town, said a letter of agreement would not be vastly different from a contract. He did note that a letter of agreement most likely would not include a clause that would keep the agreement in effect after it expires and until a new one is worked out. Chief Dean has this clause, called the Triborough Amendment, in his current contract.

Mr. Teller said he had a contract with Southampton Town when he served as its chief of police. However, he did not have a formal contract, only an agreement, when he worked as the police chief of Westhampton Beach. Chief Dean also did not have a contract for the first five years that he worked as the village’s police chief.

Village Board member Hank Tucker declined to comment extensively on the ongoing contract negotiations with Chief Dean.

“I just want to make sure that the residents and taxpayers in the village are represented properly,” Mr. Tucker said. “I would like the residents to make sure they have a fair contract negotiated.”

Quogue Village Police Chief Robert Coughlan has a 3-year contract with his village that expires in 2011. Likewise, Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson also has a contract with his village, though his agreement lasts for five years and expires in 2011.

In another twist in the ongoing saga involving Chief Dean’s expired contract, Mr. Axelrod two weeks ago withdrew the notice of claim filed by Chief Dean in Suffolk County Supreme Court. A notice of claim is a preliminary step toward a lawsuit.

Chief Dean had filed the claim in early July, about a month after the Village Board voted during an illegal executive session to take away more than 400 hours of compensatory and sick time that he had accrued during his tenure. Board members later rescinded that decision and instead directed Westhampton Beach Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis to investigate the number of hours Chief Dean had accrued over the 200 allowed under his expired contract.

Mr. Axelrod said Chief Dean withdrew his claim because he has not yet actually suffered any damages from the village. He added that his client can refile the claim at any time.

Mr. Zuckerman views the move as a small victory for the village because the chief now cannot give testimony under oath—which is usually the next step after filing a notice of claim.

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Since this pathetic little worm of a man thinks he is on par w/ NYC Chiefs why not send him there for a while? Make it part of his contract and see how long he lasts in the City. He would not last a day and come back to WHB with his tail between his legs crying for his mama. What was he actually doing while racking up all this comp time?
Probably feeding his delusions of grandeur more doughnuts...
By G (342), Southampton on Aug 20, 09 7:10 AM
Negoiate a new contract and get this over. Accept the fact that his old contract ties the Villages hands. Besides, bottom line Ray does a good job.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 20, 09 8:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Westhampton Beach, with more lawyers per capita than any geographical area outside of Manhattan, desperately wants to eliminate the contract as the form of the Chief of Police's employment. The reasons are two-fold. The law of contract has two centuries of legal authority behind it in this country. The rights of the contracting parties have been so analyzed and explained by case law that the Chief of Police's ability to contest decisions taken by the Village Board is vastly expanded under a contract. ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Aug 20, 09 3:42 PM
Dear, dear "G" -- (speaking of "pathetic little worms");

I think you may be confusing Westhampton Beach for your own Southampton Village.

The Westhampton Beach Police Chief is a professional police administrator who came up through the ranks of the Town before he was inserted into that Village to impose a higher degree of professionalism on a department that was barely in control.

That in the space of ten years he has been able to accomplish any of the mandate he was ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 20, 09 8:00 PM
3 members liked this comment
Yes , name calling is not needed here.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Aug 21, 09 11:14 AM
1 member liked this comment