Charges Dropped Against Natural Resources Department Director

Posted on 12 January 2012

The East Hampton Town Board dropped all charges against East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny last week, according to a joint press release issued by both the town and Penny’s attorney, Thomas Horn, Jr. of Sag Harbor.

Just hours prior to the release of the joint statement, the East Hampton Town Board voted to approve an agreement with Penny, who has led his department for the better part of three decades, during its Thursday night town board meeting.

However, according to the resolution, a deal was actually struck before the New Year, on December 30. While neither party has divulged the contents of the agreement, citing privacy concerns, according to Horn, Penny was pleased with the final outcome.

“The town and Mr. Penny hope that members of the press and public respect that desire for privacy and understand further comments will be limited, if there are any necessary comments to be made at all,” read the press release.

“Everyone involved is satisfied with the behind the scenes communications, explanations and rationale,” Horn later said on Monday afternoon preferring not to divulge the final agreement. “I think [Penny] is very happy with it.”

Last month, East Hampton Town Attorney John Jilnicki, on behalf of the town board, brought 16 charges of misconduct and incompetence against Penny, mostly related to the alleged storage of animal carcasses in the basement of the town’s natural resources department. Horn filed a formal answer to the allegations, but said that a community desire to see the matter settled amicably ultimately drove both sides to the table.

“There was input from leading members of the community urging that any issues be resolved in a positive and constructive manner,” states the press release. “This improved communication revealed that Mr. Penny had been actively investigating when to leave his position for several months. While the long-time employee has not submitted a letter of resignation, the town board is not interested in interfering with a timetable of Mr. Penny’s choosing.”

“The Penny family is expressing gratitude, and a sense of being overwhelmed by the number of calls from citizens and members of other agencies that have flooded their home phone,” the release continues. “The messages all include words of encouragement and thanks for their time spent with Mr. Penny and the work that has been done during his long tenure.”

According to Horn, Penny had actually reached out to him for counsel prior to any charges being filed, simply in anticipation of wanting to retire from the town and reach a fair settlement.

As a department head, Penny is a non-union member of the town’s workforce.

“I can tell you for the record that Mr. Penny has been considering a number of dates before charges were filed or any knowledge that charges would be filed,” said Horn on Monday. “I can say that because he called me with specific questions in October asked about timeframes for retirement.”

While no timeframe has been released for Penny’s retirement, Horn said that “Larry is already anticipating a successor, so obviously he is not thinking of this job in the long-term.”

“I hope the next man or woman is a scientist/naturalist interested in doing justice for nature and the environment,” said Penny in the release. “All through the years peopled wondered why I never caved to the pressure and criticism — my only secret was remembering all the people making demands is really a measurement of my department’s success.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson echoed the sentiment. According to the joint statement, the supervisor acknowledged that “while there have been differences and disagreements over certain issues, the town never doubted Larry’s commitment to preservation efforts.”

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