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355 Comments by Publius

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Westhampton Beach Village Attorney Refuses To Release Audit

**correction: Trustees should see the FOIL request, they have all seen the material at issue." Apr 17, 13 1:38 PM

Has Dick Haefeli gone rogue? OR

Is the Village Attorney just doing what the Mayor really wants?

Mayor Teller told the Press that sometimes he follows the advice of the Village Attorney, and this time he will follow the advice. Then the Mayor feigns dismay that the audit will be witheld.

Was Mr. Haefeli's legal opinion provided to the entire Board of Trustees?

How many meetings have taken place since the audit was first delivered?

Maybe the Trustees should waive the attorney client privilege and release the Haefeli legal opinion, if he even gave it to the Trustees, or if it even exists.

I sure hope that Mr. Haefeli does not forget that he represents the entire Board of Trustees of the Village of Westhampton Beach. He is not the personal attorney of the Mayor.

If Mr. Haefeli claims there is any part of the audit that can not be released, he better put his reason in writing and then call his malpractice carrier.

Violations of the Freedom Of Information Law (F.O.I.L) can result not only in a court order to release the documents, but also a judgment against the Village for costs and attorneys fees incurred by the person (or in this case the Southampton Press) that brought the legal proceeding to enforce the law.

Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys (includes Village Attorneys)

RULE 1 .13 :Organization As Client

(a) When a lawyer employed or retained by an organization is dealing with the organization’s directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, and it appears that the organization’s interests may differ from those of the constituents with whom the lawyer is dealing, the lawyer shall
explain that the lawyer is the lawyer for the organization and not for any of the constituents.

(b) If a lawyer for an organization knows that an officer, employee or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action or intends to act
or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that (i) is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization or a violation of law that reasonably
might be imputed to the organization, and (ii) is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer shall proceed as is reasonably
necessary in the best interest of the organization. In determining how to proceed, the lawyer shall give due consideration to the seriousness
of the violation and its consequences, the scope and nature of the lawyer’s representation, the responsibility in the organization and the apparent
motivation of the person involved, the policies of the organization concerning such matters and any other relevant considerations. Any measures taken
shall be designed to minimize disruption of the organization and the risk of revealing information relating to the representation to persons outside the
organization. Such measures may include, among others:
(1) asking reconsideration of the matter;
(2) advising that a separate legal opinion on the matter be sought for presentation to an appropriate authority in the organization; and
(3) referring the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the seriousness of the matter, referral to the highest
authority that can act in behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.

(c) If, despite the lawyer’s efforts in accordance with paragraph (b), the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization insists upon action, or a refusal to act, that is clearly in violation of law and is likely to result in a substantial injury to the organization, the lawyer may reveal confidential information only if permitted by Rule 1.6, and may resign.

Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District
150 Motor Parkway, Suite 102
Hauppauge, NY 11788
(631) 231-3775" Apr 19, 13 8:24 AM

Robert J. Freeman is an attorney who was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York in 1974, he is a graduate of NYU Law School and an expert on Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law.

Mr. Freeman is the Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government of the New York State Department of State.

NY Public Officerf's Law § 109. Committee on open government

The committee on open government, created by paragraph (a) of subdivision one of section eighty-nine of this chapter, shall issue advisory opinions from time to time as, in its discretion, may be required to inform public bodies and persons of the interpretations of the provisions of the open meetings law." Apr 20, 13 4:27 PM

UPDATE: Elizabeth Lindtvit To Replace Rebecca Molinaro

Village Hall is like the O.K. Corral.

I guess that can be expected when some elected officials who believe they have a birthright entitlement to dispense patronage and emoluments at village taxpayer expense are challenged by those who contest those beliefs.

Too bad, it doesn't seem like anyone is shooting straight and this will take a long time to resolve. In the meantime it is the taxpayers who get bled." Apr 26, 13 8:42 AM

Two Westhampton Beach Trustees Oppose Rehiring Of Beach Manager

The Mayor doth protest too much.

No comment from the Beach Manager about giving away free car stickers for the beach. Mayo Teller says I told her it was okay, Teller says he does it too, he can't even remember how many he gave away last year (maybe he doesn't want to remember) Jetty 4 lot sometimes full; thank Mayor Teller.

No comment from the Beach Manager about the Beach Manager hiring, not the Mayor or Trustees hiring, her hiring people to work off the books; the Mayor says I told her she shouldn't do it again.

Were any other kids in the Village given the opportunity to work at the beach, or is this just the Dean family employment agency?

Let's see, Ray Dean, his sister, her nephew and her two children all employed by the taxpayers of Westhampton Beach. And the sister is supposed to supervise her own children and nephew as employees together with other beach employees,

When Mayor Teller is done with his protest. It will be time for a taxpayer protest." Apr 27, 13 12:26 PM

Birk Announces Candidacy For Westhampton Beach Village Board

"Ms. Birk, who is unemployed and whose family owns Bike ‘N Kite on Potunk Lane, pointed out that when she was first elected to the board in 2006, the rule was that a trustee had to serve only five years to qualify. “When I was in office, the terms were five years, and I served for six,” she said. “This is all totally legitimate, and I am going to keep my benefits.”" Apr 30, 13 6:31 PM


we agree, there are no angels in Village Hall. We are better off when the Trustees serve as a check on the Mayor.

We should not want to hand the Mayor another Trustee to vote his will along with his trusty ally, Ralph Urban.

It is pretty clear that the Mayor and Ralph Urban, both lifetime public sector employees, represent the public sector employees' interests above those of the anonymous taxpayer who ends up paying the bill.

Divided government is ugly, but handing unchecked power to any single individual is rarely a good idea." May 1, 13 7:30 AM

Westhampton Beach Middle School Teacher Pleads Not Guilty In Riverhead Court

According to the print edition of the story Mr. Sheppard continues to draw his 80K salary because he is suspended with pay.

Commence the 3020-a hearing now and call HIM as the first witness on the question of misconduct. He has no Fifth Amendment right in a civil proceeding; and if he decides to stand mute, that can be considered against him.

There is no reason for this suspension to pay continue without having an immediate hearing." May 2, 13 8:39 AM

Westhampton Beach Trustees Want To Clarify Code Pertaining To Village Spending

It ended with a whimper not a bang.

The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the independent financial audit, including a “yes” vote by Trustee Ralph Urban (until this moment “Connie’s Reliable Ralph”). This audit, together with the legal opinion of the village’s labor counsel, confirmed that there were improper practices by Mayor Teller and nearly 80K of improper payments that had been made. There was no discussion by the Board.

Then the Board of Trustees adopted the First Financial Control Resolution with Mayor Teller casting the sole, barely audible, dissenting vote. By law the Mayor is only required to vote to break a tie. Nevertheless, Mayor Teller still cast the single indecisive “no” vote against Financial Reform. There was no discussion by the Board.

Maybe the 3 Trustees: Tucker, DiBenedetto, and Palmer had tired of the long process undertaken to get here. Maybe it never was about gaining a political advantage and embarrassing Mayor Teller, but truly was about correcting past improper spending practices of Mayor Teller.

The business portion of the meeting concluded, and it was peaceful.

Then came the public comment portion of the meeting, and after a variety of topics were addressed two of Mayor Teller’s tireless fans went to the podium with their own agenda.

The First-Teller-Fanatic attempted to challenge Trustee Tucker about the financial audit; he asked questions and repeatedly interrupted Mr. Tucker’s answer. He asked questions and when another Trustee gave a plain answer to the question he said “I wasn’t asking you. I asked Tucker.” As this Fanatic’s efforts proved impotent, in exasperation he said it was unfair because the 3 Trustees were ganging up on him, in truth, they just gave plain logical answers he did not want to hear. The Second-Teller-Fanatic, tried to support the First-Teller-Fanatic with interjections from the gallery, but was silenced when the Mayor waived him off.

The Second-Teller-Fanatic could not resist went to the podium and tried to engage Trustee Tucker in argument. The Second-Teller-Fanatic disagreed with the village’s labor counsel’s opinion concerning improper payments made by Mayor Teller to a former employee. The Second Fanatic acknowledged neither he nor Trustee Tucker is an attorney, and he abandoned this effort. With persistence the Second Fanatic tried to engage Trustee Tucker further on issues of accounting irregularities which were then answered by Trustee Palmer who is a municipal accountant. The Second Fanatic acknowledged the bona fide accounting credentials of Trustee Palmer, and said he would rather have a legal argument with Tucker where neither could claim personal credentials, although Tucker had gotten an a opinion from labor counsel.

The Two Fanatics did the Mayor a disservice and the Village a disservice. The meeting could have ended much earlier and much more peacefully.
" May 10, 13 10:00 AM


Both Teller-Fanatics 1 & 2, have at times made valuable contributions to this community. Their performance at the Board meeting was a glaring exception.

There were 5 elected public officials on the dais. Every one of them was doing their best for the Village.

However, in spite of his native intelligence and obvious concern for this village, in my opinion, Fanatic #1 has resorted to personal attacks using vitriolic language that has for a number of years poisoned the political discourse in this community. Had it been otherwise he would probably be sitting at this moment as a Trustee, or even a Mayor. The personal and vicious attacks have probably disqualified him for all time, and that is sad.

Unfortunately, at the last meeting Fanatic #2 seemed to take his inspiration from Fanatic #1 and the conduct of each was as you might say "unbecoming."

Yes, in the grand scheme of a 9 Million dollar budget 80K is closer to a molehill than a mountain. However, the Mayor denied the existence of the molehill and refused to correct it. What, indeed, were the Trustees to do? Say "Oh Well, the Mayor means well and its only 80K?"

In fact, during the meeting Fanatic #2 said when he was a Trustee he would have worked it out privately with the Mayor. Did he ever have a Mayor who refused to acknowledge even the simplest of mistakes? That is what occurred here by all reported accounts.

Unfortunately, the Mayor's stubborn refusal to correct even simple mistakes should be disqualify him from re-election, if a reasonable candidate should choose to run in such toxic environment.

As far as "name calling" Please see the definition from Webster's dictionary:

Fanatic: marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.

The excessive enthusiasm of the Two Fanatics at that particular meeting, and their uncritical devotion to the Mayor who had refused to correct his own mistakes and those of his subordinates was on full display at the meeting. That was after the Trustees passed the resolutions without any public argument or comment at all!

I am confident Fanatic #2 can reign in his enthusiasm, and upon sober reflection might conclude that it was not the Trustees who have made a mountain out of a mole hill, but the Mayor, and he might even think he could have done better at the meeting, as he usually does.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

" May 11, 13 11:20 PM

Westhampton Beach Trustees Adopt Report; Approve Budget Transfers

The Audit itself did not reveal earth shattering information. But the Mayor and Trustees demonstrated their own mettle.

This paper has reported the Mayor's admission that he improperly paid cash for comp. time to the Chief of Police.

The Mayor has admitted that he gives seasonal beach stickers away as he pleases and has told the Beach Manager she could do the same.

There is no question that salaried employees were overpaid 22K and that the former Village Clerk found making the correct calculations challenging.

The audit shows that clerical staff were paid for step raises when there were no contractual steps raises.

NOW, Mayor Teller says if the Trustees (Tucker, DiBenedetto and Palmer) want to "meddle" he "could care less."

These are the kind of meddlesome Trustees we need.

In fact, its when the Trustees have not been completely vigilant in overseeing the Mayor that the greatest mischief occurs.

" May 17, 13 8:44 AM

Westhampton Developer Repeats Request For Hearing On Supermarket Proposal

Having a hearing does not cost a penny.

Having a hearing does not mean a supermarket should or should not be on Old Riverhead Road.

Having a hearing does not require that the Comprehensive Plan be changed with all of the procedural requirements and associated costs.

Having a hearing allows for the Trustees, and more importantly the community, to hear both sides of the question.

Having a hearing is how these things are decided in front of the public, not in backrooms.

Once there is a hearing the Trustees can consider:

1. Whether the Zoning Code should be amended to include supermarket in the B-3 district.

2. If that is a reasonable consideration, after hearing all of the facts, then would such an amendment to the zoning code be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan?

-- a decision to be made after being fully informed by the facts, not dictated by attorneys who have not been elected, or planners who might be conceptually partisan in favor of their own past ideas and not as open to new considerations.

3. If the Comprehensive Plan must be revisited, should the Village do that?

4. Back to question 1 after all of the information has been presented in a public forum.

Have a hearing, stop stonewalling the process designed for the public's good.

Decisions made in secret by a few in the backroom of village hall -- or at Ekart's, can no longer prevail. Those are the old ways, times change. The public's business needs to be conducted in public." May 31, 13 10:07 AM

Voters Approve New Westhampton Beach Firehouse

In 2002, the Westhampton Beach Fire Department consolidated with its protection areas of Westhampton Beach, Westhampton, Quiogue and the Westhampton Dunes in a process that fire district officials call "friendly" and "amicable."

According to those in Westhampton Beach, consolidation would put an end to these practices. "Everyone wanted a voice," offered Carol Nemeth, secretary-treasurer for the Westhampton Beach Fire District. "A big selling point was that everyone would have an equal say."

Given the voter turn out, its as if it never even happened.

Did the voters in the Consolidated District know they were even voters?" Jun 6, 13 10:33 AM

Recent Filming Raises Questions About The Hiring Of Local Police For Security

Exactly right.

If you do things that require public services above that which is routinely afforded to all taxpayers, then you should pay for the additional services you require." Jun 28, 13 10:36 AM

Westhampton Beach School District Braces For Anticipated Loss Of Tuckahoe Tuition Students

The loss of tuition revenue will have to be offset by a reduction in staff, and to the extent it is not completely offset then the cost of education in WHB will go up. That is what tuition pays for the actual cost of the education.

Don't forget, it was the sending districts that begged WHB to expand its high school so that it could continue to educate their students. So, that is why all districts, along with WHB, should shoulder the burden.

That does not mean that any of the school districts are off the hook. They must be more responsible and more accountable to taxpayers, and restrict expenditures to those things that get academic results. " Jul 7, 13 11:01 PM

West Hampton Dunes Weighs Benefits Of Forming Police Department

With constables possessing the same legal authority as police officers, (with the exception that they can't operate outside the immediate jurisdiction) Why take on the additional expense?

This is certainly one of those cases where you don't necessarily get what you pay for. Take on the responsiblities / expenses of a police department and you are setting the foundation for a little empire that could prove costly." Jul 24, 13 8:46 AM

Plea Deal Could Be In Works For Westhampton Beach Middle School Teacher Accused Of Filming Girls In Locker Room

This is why it pays to hire a good defense attorney. Mr. Brill just admitted to all the world that his client is guilty, and that his client is just looking for a deal.

Well, defense counsel's foot-in-mount certainly improves the bargaining position of the prosecution.

I hope the plea agreement includes getting the Defendant to pay the school district back for his suspension with pay. In some respects, that pay for no work is the proceeds of the crime.

The school had to protect the children, he gets suspended for being a criminal, and gets paid all the while. " Jul 30, 13 9:08 PM

Renewed Push For Sunrise Highway Exit Ramps At Speonk-Riverhead Road

It may be a "no-brainer" if you have business on Speonk-Riverhead Road, but for people who live along Old Country Road there would certainly be an increase in traffic as Old Country Road between Speonk-Riverhead Road and Montauk Highway would be an even more convenient access to Westhampton. Eastbound summer traffic would not wait for the next exit. Then on Sunday night the reverse commute would take the same traffic westbound on Old Country Road again.

Some would like it, others would hate it." Aug 9, 13 9:44 AM

Westhampton Beach Village Attorney Again Blocks Release Of Public Document

...and under what theory is this document kept secret?

Under Freedom of Information Law all public records are presumed to be open to public inspection and copying. It is the exception that they are secret.

Publit Officers' Law section 87 (FOIL)

The Village of Westhampton beach must ...make available for public inspection and copying ALL records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that:

(a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute;

(b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;

(c) if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations;

(d) are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise;

(e) are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would:
i. interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings;
ii. deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication;
iii. identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation; or
iv. reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures, except routine techniques and procedures;

(f) if disclosed could endanger the life or safety of any person;

(g) are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not:
i. statistical or factual tabulations or data;
ii. instructions to staff that affect the public;
iii. final agency policy or determinations;
iv. external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government; or

(h) are examination questions or answers which are requested prior to the final administration of such questions.

(i) if disclosed, would jeopardize [fig 1] the capacity of an agency or an entity that has shared information with an agency to guarantee the security of its information technology assets, such assets encompassing both electronic information systems and infrastructures; or

(j) [Expires and repealed Dec 1, 2014] are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-a of the vehicle and traffic law.

(k) [Expires and repealed Dec 1, 2014] are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-b of the vehicle and traffic law.

(l) [Expires and repealed Sept 20, 2015] are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images produced by a bus lane photo device prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-c of the vehicle and traffic law.

3. Each agency shall maintain:

(a) a record of the final vote of each member in every agency proceeding in which the member votes;

(b) a record setting forth the name, public office address, title and salary of every officer or employee of the agency; and

(c) a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter [fig 1] of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under this article. Each agency shall update its subject matter list annually, and the date of the most recent update shall be conspicuously indicated on the list. Each state agency as defined in subdivision four of this section that maintains a website shall post its current list on its website and such posting shall be linked to the website of the committee on open government. Any such agency that does not maintain a website shall arrange to have its list posted on the website of the committee on open government.

What is poor Richard's exception this time?" Aug 9, 13 10:09 AM

Panel Will Explore If Southampton Town Should Buy Development Rights To Fund Farm Purchases

At first blush it looks like the CPF money is being transferred to the Peconic Land Trust so that this not-for-profit can make more decisions about what property should be preserved.

It would also be worthwhile to examine the Peconic Land Trust's 990 Tax Return to determine whether this is a good bang for the buck, or not." Aug 28, 13 10:48 AM

Kabot, Keith In Dead Heat With Challenges Pending

"New York Election Law vests the courts with the power to determine, on a reasonable basis, the intent of the voter in casting his or her ballot for a "write in" candidate. This power stems from the right of the voter to be safeguarded against disenfranchisement and to have his or her intent implemented wherever reasonably possible." Guilianelle v. Conway, 265 A.D.2d 594 (1999).

Is there a Lynda Cabot who lives in the Town of Southampton ?

The only reason for Mr. Keith not to concede the election is because he is a Conservative Party apparatchik and party bosses might feel they have the political power to get a Court to disenfranchise the voters who were less cautious when spelling of Linda Kabot's name.

Save your good name for another election, Mr. Keith. The facts and the law are not on your side." Sep 19, 13 8:08 AM

Southampton Football Game Forfeited In Response To Sexually Explicit Act

§ 130.55. Sexual abuse in the third degree

A person is guilty of sexual abuse in the third degree when he or she subjects another person to sexual contact without the latter's consent; except that in any prosecution under this section, it is an affirmative defense that (a) such other person's lack of consent was due solely to incapacity to consent by reason of being less than seventeen years old, and (b) such other person was more than fourteen years old, and (c) the defendant was less than five years older than such other person.

Sexual abuse in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.

"Sexual contact" means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party. It includes the touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor, whether directly or through clothing, as well as the emission of ejaculate by the actor upon any part of the victim, clothed or unclothed.

"Forcible compulsion" means to compel by either:
a. use of physical force; or
b. a threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself, herself or another person, or in fear that he, she or another person will immediately be kidnapped.

Lack of consent results from:

(a) Forcible compulsion;" Nov 6, 13 4:00 PM

Southampton, Tuckahoe School Boards Still Working Toward Merger

The savings comes from eliminating Tuckahoe administrative costs. Why not contract with Southampton Schools for administrative services and continue to pay tuition for its students as it does now.

The only reason to merge the tax base is if the goal is to transfer wealth from one community to another. Why do that?" Nov 16, 13 10:37 AM

Oddone Conviction Overturned By Highest Court, New Trial Possible In 2008 Killing

Court of Appeals did not like the flavor of this conviction.

It knew that a holdout juror's son was arrested during deliberations.

It knew and commented on the fact that the courtroom was packed with corrections officers, a potential source of intimidation.

It knew that the prosecutor, in her closing argument, misstated Ms Flynn's testimony given at trial, and that the prosecutor, with the approval of the trial judge, prevented the defense from asking Flynn about her earliest statement to insurance investigators that was dramatically different from her trial testimony -- so much so that her trial testimony was suspect.

Under the circumstances the highest court in this state said, do it over, we are all better with a conviction that is not tainted with the doubt of whether the process of fair.

In the end, Mr. Oddone will be held accountable for the death he caused, he is only litigating the degree of culpability. That has been the only question from the beginning. It started out as murder, went to manslaughter 1st, now the man. 1 is back on the table for consideration of that as compared to criminally negligent homicide.

People will bring their own personal experiences in there estimate of the correct result. Some with law enforcement experience are aghast it is not murder, some who have dealt with the occassional overbearing member of law enforcement think there should be a complete acquittal.

the incident, and everything that has followed is a study in human fallability, none of which will bring Mr. Reister back to his family.
" Dec 13, 13 9:00 AM

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