Talks of possible layoffs in Southampton Town Hall led to a heated argument between Deputy Supervisor Bill Jones and PBA President Patrick Aubé. After supervisor Linda Kabot revealed a sobering 2010 budget plan on Friday, October 2, Jones confronted Aubé in the hallway as reporters, council members and the public looked on. Bringing his finger inches from Aubé’s face, Jones railed against comments Aubé had made during the budget meeting.
Above: Jones with Kabot earlier in the year.
Aubé alleged the board hadn’t done due diligence in finding cost-cutting measures besides laying off nearly 50 employees. He claimed the PBA proposed $1.5 million in savings in 2008 and said the town had dismissed the PBA’s recommendations. Aubé implored the board to reject the preliminary 2010 budget, saying, “It is time that this town board shows its workforce that layoffs and destruction of their families is not the answer.”
PBA Vice President Kevin Gwinn chimed in and remarked that the tentative budget is founded on “smoke and mirrors.”
As tempers flared in the hallway, Jones defended the work of his colleagues and painted a different portrait of the PBA and their efforts.
“I am infuriated by this nonsense . . . You [the PBA] haven’t been cooperative . . . every taxpayer suffers the bills they have to pay [for the Police Fund],” yelled Jones, who later allegedly shoved Aubé.
Hearing the fracas in the hallway, Kabot exited the conference room and attempted to separate the two men.
“You have to calm down,” she said to Jones.
“He had to tell four employees [they might be let go],” explained Kabot to Aubé, clarifying the possible reason behind Jones’ angry outburst.
After Jones was sequestered to another room and Aubé and Gwinn left the building, Kabot was asked if Jones would receive a formal reprimand.
“The reality is I have to get more facts about what happened. The issue is that he is upset about the commentary made . . . I apologize . . . This isn’t a good representation of me or my office,” noted Kabot.
She later pointed out that town police employee costs accounted for almost $22 million last year, while the overall 2009 adopted budget was $82.5 million. She added that a high percentage of the police force are paid well over $100,000 a year and noted that almost a quarter are eligible for retirement.
Aubé doesn’t plan to press charges against Jones, but did file an incident report with Southampton Village police.
Jones issued a statement via email on Sunday afternoon saying: “Citizens are demanding fundamental change at every level of government and, in particular, they want government to spend less so that it will tax less. What the people need to recognize and understand is that the fundamental change they seek is impossible without a monumental reduction in police costs. Village cops, town cops, and county cops are too highly compensated and their labor victories of the past have made them arrogant and uncompromising. Good for the cops, bad for the taxpayers. Many know this to be true, but few are willing to say it publicly. I just did.”
Of the atmosphere in town hall, Kabot said, “Tempers are running high. There are a lot of emotions.”