5 Southold town employees under investigation following 2-year probe into police retirement party
Five Southold town employees are under investigation related to a probe into a May 2020 retirement party for a police sergeant, which violated social distancing rules during the pandemic.
The Southold Town Board suspended one of those employees without pay, but officials have not released the names of any of the individuals involved.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell told News 12 that Captain James Ginas is now acting police chief. He would not comment on Chief Martin Flatley, who has been a veteran of the department for more than four decades.
During that retirement party in Cutchogue for Sgt. Steven Zuhoski, the town allegedly received numerous complaints that the police department was not practicing social distancing. It happened at a time when gatherings of more than 10 people were prohibited due to COVID-19.
Chief Flatley received criticism for how the department handled those complaints and the town hired an independent investigator to look into their response. The investigation sent shockwaves through the community, with many concerned about a lack of transparency.
"That report was given to our elected officials about a month ago and we still don't know what's in that report," said Jordan Silbert of East Marion. "They've told us it's troubling, but as somebody who lives in the community, I would like to know what happened."
At Tuesday's town board meeting, officials hired a hearing officer to gather information on the five town employees. The board will make a decision on possible disciplinary action based on the hearing officer's report.
It is unclear when the officer is expected to present that report to board members.
Supervisor Russell said the board wants to move as quickly as possible on this matter, but it hasn't felt that way to some Southold residents.
"I'm raising these two terrific kids and I want them to grow up in a community where government is transparent," Silbert said. "We have a set of rules and everybody plays by those set of rules."