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Town Council: New Chapter, Wrong Page

Chatham Party puts focus on how memo was released rather than its contents.

 

The public, press and, at least one politician in East Hampton have had a lot to say since Patch reported on the grievance filed by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 524, with the State Board of Labor Relations.

Interestingly, however, the recent reaction and commentary isn’t about the complaint itself. Rather, the fuss has focused on a document that was referenced in the Patch about the complaint, and the public disclosure of the document.

That document - prepared by former Acting Interim Town Manager Anne McKinney - is a list of 15 concerns she had with Police Chief Matt Reimondo and the police department in general. It was the culmination of information gathered based on interviews with department employees.

Some news outlets have called it a performance evaluation, conjuring up images of that often-dreaded annual review most of us probably get. But it isn’t.

The memorandum, one of two McKinney intended to give the Chief on Nov. 2 following up on their conversation on Nov. 1, leads off with her saying in the first graph: “Many of these concerns are quite serious but before I decide what action to take, if any, I want to provide you with notice of these concerns and an opportunity to respond to them.”

In other words, before making any evaluation, McKinney first wanted the Chief’s feedback.

The second memo stated McKinney wanted a decision by the Chief on the Sgt. Michael Green investigations and the one into Officer Hardie Burgin no later than that Friday (Nov. 4), the same deadline as the other memo. Reimondo hasn’t had the opportunity to respond because he left on medical leave the same day the memos were prepared. The Chief was back on Monday.

Instead of focusing on McKinney’s concerns, Town Council Chair Sue Weintraub said she wants an investigation into how the memo listing McKinney’s concerns was made public, according to an article last week in The Hartford Courant. The article went on to say Weintraub believed the memo to be confidential personnel information.

That’s a pretty broad interpretation of “personnel information.” The memo is clearly about Reimondo, but it is not an invasion of personal privacy and the information does pertain to legitimate matters of public concern, and some the public might care less about. The memo also is clearly about workplace issues and their impact on the department’s performance. Not every document is confidential just because it concerns town personnel. Though one person manages the department, people are responsible for everything that occurs in every town department and the public schools. Does that mean all activity and every decision is shrouded in secrecy? How would the public assess the performance of its town officials if this was the case?

The documents do not appear to be subject to Freedom of Information exemptions. Others may - and most likely do - feel differently, but the focus on the police department, its leadership and the role of public safety would seem to eliminate any argument that the information is simply one person’s performance evaluation, annual or otherwise. The memo contains information the residents of East Hampton have a right to know and if there was to be stricter, self-imposed guidelines by the town concerning the release of such information, town employees would only be burdened by FOI requests that in most cases would ultimately gain the release of the requested document.

The law on public documents aside, there’s a bigger issue here. The Chatham Party, which won control of the council in the Nov. 8 election, promised during the campaign to make fiscally sound decisions and manage taxpayer money wisely. 

Moreover, as part of its mission, the Chatham Party says it wants to support full and open communication and documentation of all government activities.

Then there’s this comment on the party’s web site: “It's time to stop fighting and get things done for the good of the town. Chatham Party candidates will work together to build inter-board cooperation and move projects forward.”

The voters empowered the Chatham Party to make good on its promises and carry through its mission. It’s therefore inconsistent to suddenly want to spend time and effort trying to figure out how a document became public and spending dollars on lawyers to help its hunt, or to characterize McKinney’s release of the memo as a desperate move by Reimondo’s foes, regardless of whether that is true.

The Chatham Party needs to rise above the politics as usual and put community first, as they said would happen if elected. If this is an indication of the direction it intends to pursue, the Party runs the risk of having its credibility slip away early in its reign over the town council, denying the residents of East Hampton the leadership it needs to manage finances, unite the town and maintain the quality of life people here enjoy.

 

For more information on the privacy standards applied under Freedom of Information, click here and here.

Ernist November 23, 2011 at 10:35 AM
In your article you write," Instead of focusing on McKinney's concerns, Town Council Chair Sue Wientraub wants an investigation into how the memo was made public." I believe Ms. Wientraub's concern over how the report was made public is quite valid. Your Having the report is not really important. What is in the report will receive the attention of the interim Town Manager and so is not overly important . What is important is that for you to receive the report, some one had to sneak into the Chief of Police's office, stick the report under his shirt, and sneak out without getting caught. That's stealing. Now I hear ya Mike, FOI and the right of the people to know. But FOI requires you fill out a request for the information, not sneak into the Police Department and help yourself . That's stealing. Stealing always requires a thief. If that thief is a Police Officer, sworn to uphold and obey the law, an investigation should be conducted to find out who the person is, so he can seek employment in a field where his talents can best be put to use. Now I hear ya Mike, It's not really stealing, the rights of the people to know and all. Well here is a test for you and your readers to try. Go to Town Hall, go into any office when no one is there, grab some files or documents, put them under your shirt, and walk out of the building. Does it really feel like the right of the people to know? . Now maybe it was not a thief, but they can't know without an investigation.
Ernist November 23, 2011 at 10:35 AM
In your article you write," Instead of focusing on McKinney's concerns, Town Council Chair Sue Wientraub wants an investigation into how the memo was made public." I believe Ms. Wientraub's concern over how the report was made public is quite valid. Your Having the report is not really important. What is in the report will receive the attention of the interim Town Manager and so is not overly important . What is important is that for you to receive the report, some one had to sneak into the Chief of Police's office, stick the report under his shirt, and sneak out without getting caught. That's stealing. Now I hear ya Mike, FOI and the right of the people to know. But FOI requires you fill out a request for the information, not sneak into the Police Department and help yourself . That's stealing. Stealing always requires a thief. If that thief is a Police Officer, sworn to uphold and obey the law, an investigation should be conducted to find out who the person is, so he can seek employment in a field where his talents can best be put to use. Now I hear ya Mike, It's not really stealing, the rights of the people to know and all. Well here is a test for you and your readers to try. Go to Town Hall, go into any office when no one is there, grab some files or documents, put them under your shirt, and walk out of the building. Does it really feel like the right of the people to know? . Now maybe it was not a thief, but they can't know without an investigation.
DarkHelmet12345 November 23, 2011 at 11:01 AM
Mike, I appreciate your response and, perhaps not surprisingly, I respectfully disagree with your opinion. Have you considered that FOI may not be the point here? Perhaps a document marked confidential and slipped under the locked door of the police chief, requesting his responses to particular criticisms before considered complete, was not ready for public consumption? If you believe a certain Ex-Councilor's Facebook posts, ONLY the Chief has the key to his office door. This would mean that Ms. McKinney provided the officer with a second copy to give you. Otherwise the officer would have to have broken in to the Chief's office and made a copy for himself. The first choice is likely the more reasonable one. It would certainly save time and money if they would just say so though. The only reason not to is they did something wrong and would rather have everyone assume the officer broke into the chief office. Again, Mike, I appreciate your response.
DarkHelmet12345 November 23, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Ernist, Either McKinney gave Salafia the report, OR he broke into the the Chief's locked office. I'm inclined to believe McKinney gave it to him rather than think our police officers are criminals. But this begs the question, why not just come out and say so? Unless, of course, they knew it was wrong to do. Salafia is doing himself no favors by staying silent about how he got the documents. McKinney will certainly let him take the fall if it keeps her out of court.
AJ November 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Three simple points/facts: #1. While the information in the "Confidential and Personal" list of concerns may be made available to the public, through proper FOI process, this was not the case here. These records were not properly FOI'd, and were made available to the public, and a news outlet at that, the very next day, by either the AITM, McKinney herself, or another officer, who we believe is Salafia. Mike, you know who gave you the documents, perhaps you want to stick with honest "journalism", and out your source. #2. The difference between this and the "dog catchers" information, is that the dog catchers information was not made public to a news source, and has, as far as we know, not been proven to be fact that items were made public...I never heard about the dog catchers incident until this year...two years after it happened.... #3. Deb I believe you stated that it is the COP's responsibility to keep the working quarters/prison quarters safe, well, indirectly that may be so,( may be), but when the COP includes monies in his budget year after year, and has tried year after year to have better quarters for he and his men and their "prisoners" ( like we have alot of those? ha.) but is turned down during the budget review process, that falls right back on the Town. Look to the Town, Town Manager and the past Councils for that deficiency. So, Mike, how did those documents end up in your lap?
eyeonthetruth November 23, 2011 at 01:21 PM
ALL this would'd have happened If the chief and CP had not dragged the McKenney report through every delaying event possible.Why didn't the chief answer the concerns.DELAY,DELAY,DELAY. I'M SICK,I'M SICK, LAWYER NOT AVAILABLE, I"M ON VACATION. LOOK IN THE MIRROR CHIEF. How about the letter from the chiefs lawyer saying I'LL take action if the town touches the chief in any way. THIS IS B.S.
AJ November 23, 2011 at 01:42 PM
No, none of this would be happening if Engel and Okeefe, ( with the help of Tuttle, Moore and Goff) did not try to take the Chief out over personal issues....lets stick to the facts and the timing of when this boat set sail. And why is it ok for Weischel to be out on sick leave, but not Reimondo?
eyeonthetruth November 23, 2011 at 02:11 PM
AJ Because Reimondo was delaying the process til after the election! ALSO Weischel was brought back too soon,he can't do the job 2 1/2 days a week! delay,delay,delay til after the election.
AJ November 23, 2011 at 02:46 PM
FROM PAGE 46 OF THE TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK: The Town keeps certain records relating to an employee’s employment in a personnel file. The documents contained within that file are the property of the Town and must be maintained for government and Town record-keeping purposes. The following items may be included in employees’ personnel files: • Employment application and résumé; • Reference checks; • Job descriptions; • Records related to hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff, compensation, training, etc.; • Letters of recognition; • Performance evaluations; • Exit interviews; • Termination records; • Training records. CONTINUED BELOW
AJ November 23, 2011 at 02:46 PM
The following records will be maintained in files separate from employees’ personnel files: • Medical records; • Equal employment opportunity documents identifying an individual’s race and sex; • Immigration forms. All files connected with an employee are considered strictly confidential, and access will be limited only to Human Resources employees, upper management, and the direct supervisor or manager of an individual employee with a job-related need to know the information and who has been authorized to see the file. Information contained in employee personnel files will not be made available to non-employees, unless written authorization is obtained from the employee, or a lawful summons, subpoena, or judicial order has been properly served. In general, and where and when appropriate, the Town will notify the employee of such a request when it is received. However, the Town need not inform an employee that personal information has been disclosed to law enforcement agencies if it concerns an investigation into the employee’s on-the-job conduct, especially when an employee’s actions endanger other employees or Town security and property. However, the Town may also be required to disclose certain personnel records
AJ November 23, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Looks like a major No no...what has happened here with this Personal and Confidential" memo....
Sheila Barton Engel November 23, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Where has it been proven that it was marked personal and confidential? I don't see anything other than Weintraub "believed" it was. Please post a link or something to verify, thanks.
AJ November 23, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Oh Sheila Sheila Sheila....want to borrow my glasses?
Sheila Barton Engel November 23, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Thank you. I can't open those. (and thanks for not being nasty to me, really)
TheOwl November 23, 2011 at 04:30 PM
You're right, my branch is broke. In fact, there's a lot of broken branches out there. But that's the problem with this town, everywhere you turn there's broken branches. Looks like CT after Irene. Was at last night's council meeting. Saw a lot of broken branches there also. One big nasty brush pile just waiting, just looking for, just asking for someone to accidently drop a match into it so the flames could erupt. What a mess from years of a handful abusing the forest.
Sheila Barton Engel November 23, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Jill, can you email those to me please?
eyeonthetruth November 23, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Who's going the comment on the delay til after the election?
Ernist November 23, 2011 at 06:09 PM
To eyeonthetruth, "Delay til after the the election? As far as I know the Chief was out on sick leave. Are you saying he wasn't sick? Are you saying he abused his sick leave? Do you have any proof of this. Maybe Mike Bartolotta's " Source" can break into the chief's doctor,s office and "liberate" the chief's medical records, for the peoples need to know. Then we would know for sure. But until then, he was out on sick leave because he was sick. There was no intentional delay.
Sheila Barton Engel November 23, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Yes I am that facebook person. I started that group to take the heat off the young lady whose facebook group was being hatefully torn apart on the Chatham party blog. That was so disrespectful of them and they made it a game to bully her, because she is an Engel? She is a college student and she is NOT fair game. What is their problem? If you don’t like what people are saying, then don’t read it. It’s simple. Real people, using their real names to ask questions, discuss events and share their opinions. So many of them dislike the Chatham party, can’t deny that. The past council and their families took an awful lot of hateful words, ridiculing, personal attacks and mean spirited jokes from anonymous bloggers who were key players on the Chatham party blog. People are rightfully disgusted by their crude deceitful behavior and are now very cautious of what else they may be capable of. And we’ve seen some of that in just the last 2 weeks. I’m flattered that you think my family is so rich and powerful, but that is not the case, much like most of your comments; not everything is someone’s vindictive, self-serving personal agenda tactic. Written in this very article is the summation of the PDF’s, so to say I don’t know what they contain is not true. I would like to read them in their entirety and share them. Not sure why I wasted my time replying to you, you don’t even know what the center of the issue is, how could you with no name and no credentials.
eyeonthetruth November 23, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Delay IS your friend when you have something to hide.
AJ November 23, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Can't email them to you, but would be happy to drop them off to you, or you can pick up a pair at CVS...and make sure they aren't rose colored.
Sheila Barton Engel November 23, 2011 at 09:56 PM
Jill, Thats very thoughtful but someone else was able to get them to me. And they most certainly are not rose colored.
eyeonthetruth November 23, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Hawkeye, why would the TC choose a new TM before the election,just to have the CP send him down the road.
Pensadora November 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM
To eyeonthetruth: Let's take East Hampton Town Council Town Manager Selection 101 class: If I understand your implication, it is that the new Town Council, led by the Chatham Party majority, would automatically fire any Town Manager that was chosen by the previous Town Council 6. Let's just say that any town manager chosen by the TC 6 would be automatically suspect by the new CP majority TC. It would closely scrutinize to see if he/she exhibited any symptoms of vertical head-hinge syndrome: That is, the CP majority would be alert to any indications that he/she had received the head-hinge insertion surgery: That is, an obvious manifestation of the head moving only in a vertical up and down motion would appear whenever the underlying agenda-driven directives of the previous TC came into play on the TC. That's when this syndrome manifests. Are you with me so far? Of course, you would have to have been following the agenda and actions of the TC and their cohorts for a long time to recognize this syndrome and its underlying cause. If the CP spotted the classic symptoms of the head-hinge syndrome, yes, they would most likely fire the TM the TC 6 had hired. If, however, the CP saw no signs of this syndrome (highly unlikely) they would keep this TM even though the previous TC had hired him/her. Unlike the TC 6, they would not fire the TM hired by the previous council before he even started his job, costing E.H. many thousands. Only the previous council did that.
Michael Bartolotta November 25, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Hi Hawkeye, I spent 11 years on the sports desk at The Courant and 11 on the state desk. Enjoyed every minute of it ... well, almost every minute. Anyway, I first reported the existence of the memo in the union grievance story but only briefly mentioned it in no significant detail. It wasn't until The Courant's article that a major issue was made of the memo, apparently by my having it. So, I felt it should be put out there for the public to see, and like I've said before, draw their own conclusions. As for why The Courant didn't pdf it, maybe they didn't have it. Maybe, as a rule, they don't pdf such things. They didn't with the grievance, the Olzacki suit and so on. You'll have to ask them, but I wouldn't assume because they did not publish the memo, it was because their legal team reviewed it and said no. Ethical journalism always makes for an interesting debate, but my decision to publish the memo isn't the story here. I don't think I took "a chance." What I do think is that our town as a whole has been better served by it, which is one of the guiding principles for a journalist. Thanks for your many comments, Hawkeye, I appreciate it.
eyeonthetruth November 25, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Pensadora " highly unlikely" you proved my point!
Harvey Gloatstone November 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Can everyone please stop picking on poor Chief Reimondo and speculating about his sick leave? At least his absence was actually documented for this time period, as opposed to all the rest of the time he just chose not to report (while still collecting his pay.) It is called larceny from a Municipality and it is a felony! Do I need to walk you people through the "just-cause" procedures?
eyeonthetruth November 25, 2011 at 04:06 PM
How about SGT Green. When is he coming back, and don't give me any of that legal B.S.
eyeonthetruth November 25, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Isn't about time to scrap the "INTERNAL and Make it outside like ST POLICE INVESTIGATION. How can it be objective if the CHIEF and SGT GREEN hate each other!
observer November 26, 2011 at 03:46 AM
Did it ever occur to you that the "issues" with the chief had a great deal of validity?" He is a despot, and will eventually be found out. The council , and O'keefe were trying to save the town embarrassment and $$$. the direct opposite of what the Chief does. (Don't you see how tacky he is to try and get another $600 from the town for suits) FYI: :( good suits cost much more) just shows how tacky he is.

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