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Aug 11, 2010 1:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Disciplinary hearing begins for second Westhampton Beach police officer

Aug 11, 2010 1:24 PM

A closed-door disciplinary hearing for the second of two Westhampton Beach Village Police officers charged with lying to superior officers and outside investigators began last Thursday, August 5, and will continue in September, officials said.

The hearing for Officer Joseph Pesapane began at Village Hall at around 3:15 p.m. and ended at about 6 p.m. without concluding, according to Mayor Conrad Teller, who said he was not present at the hearing.

Officer Pesapane was charged with lying once during a Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau investigation that was prompted last year when a fellow officer’s handgun went missing from police headquarters.

“There was some talk between the attorneys, and ultimately the hearing started,” Mr. Teller said. “Testimony has started, at a certain hour it ended, and it’s adjourned to September 8 at 10 a.m.”

He declined to comment further about the substance of the hearing, which was not open to the public.

Another officer, Michael Bruetsch, was charged with three counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer and five counts of lying during the same investigation. His hearing began on August 3, and also has not concluded. The attorneys and the hearing officer are currently working to schedule another date for a continuation of that hearing, according to William Keahon, the Hauppauge attorney representing the two officers, and Richard Zuckerman, the Melville attorney representing Westhampton Beach Village.

Both attorneys declined to speak about the substance of either hearing this week.

Mr. Zuckerman, who serves as the village’s labor attorney, said it was still unclear who will decide on punishment, if any, for the officers. Either the Village Board will impose a punishment, or the board will authorize the hearing officer—an outside arbitrator named Stephen Bluth—to impose one on his own.

That question will be determined after the hearings conclude, Mr. Zuckerman said. He declined to estimate when that would happen.

The Village Board suspended the two officers without pay for 30 days in early July. At the end of that period, they will remain suspended but will be added back on the payroll, according to Police Chief Ray Dean.

They will collect their next bi-weekly check on September 3, according to Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis. Officer Bruetsch makes an annual salary of just under $117,000, while Officer Pesapane earns just over $104,000, she said.

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