East Hampton, CT Council Considering Dumping Police Chief Job

The Brass Key | August 14, 2010 | Comments (0)

A public hearing on the controversy is scheduled for Aug. 31

 The town council is weighing whether to permanently remove the police chief position, ratcheting up a controversy that has inflamed this lakeside community since June.

The council has scheduled an Aug. 31 public hearing to allow residents’ input on a proposed new ordinance that would eliminate the requirement for a police chief in the town of 13,000.

A large turnout is expected at the meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

“The meeting will be an opportunity for people to tell us how they feel,” said council Chairwoman Melissa Engel.

If approved, the ordinance would effectively make Town Manager Jeffery O’Keefe police chief, with administrative oversight for the department. Lt. Michael Green would continue to oversee day-to-day operations, Engel said. 

Engel also said that no change in the town charter is required. East Hampton has had a police chief since 1989, she said.   

The proposed ordinance, called unprecedented by some, sparked anger at a meeting Tuesday evening, when the council voted 5-1 to schedule the public hearing on the matter. About 125 people surged into the steamy high school auditorium, which erupted in loud boos and catcalls after the vote. 

Some wore black T-shirts in support of veteran Police Chief Matthew Reimondo, whose $100,000-per-year job was eliminated by O’Keefe in June.

O’Keefe also reduced two patrol officer slots in the 16-member force and delayed the purchase of cruisers. The cuts, he says, were to help tackle a projected $1 million budget shortfall during the next fiscal year.

But Reimondo supporters contend that the action was in retaliation for the chief’s investigation into several sexual harassment complaints against O’Keefe earlier this year. An attorney hired by the town to look into the complaints found no wrongdoing by O’Keefe.

Reimondo, who has hired a lawyer to regain his job, has been home since June 22, when he was stripped of his badge, gun and car and placed on paid administrative leave.

By ERIK HESSELBERG,  The Hartford Courant

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