By Kathryn G. Menu
A notice of claim filed in July against both the Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, as well as a subsequent letter sent to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees in August critical of fire department management, has revealed a divide in Sag Harbor.
And it appears it’s one that may take a long time to mend.
On July 18, Sag Harbor attorney Thomas W. Horn filed a notice of claim on behalf of his client, Scott Ficorilli, against Sag Harbor Village and the fire department. In the notice of claim, Horn said Ficorilli was expelled from the fire department in an executive meeting of the Board of Wardens on April 19.
Their decision was unanimous, according to the notice of claim.
But according to Horn, the actions of the board of wardens were not in compliance with the constitution and by-laws of the Sag Harbor Fire Department. He added Ficorilli was, as such, improperly removed from the department, unable to enjoy the current and future benefits of being a member of the fire department.
At the root of the claim is the allegation that the department did not follow its own by-laws in how it dismissed Ficorilli and that he was eliminated from the department rather than suspended for a specific amount of time.
It remains unclear what actions led to Ficorilli’s dismissal. There has been no formal criminal charges filed against Ficorilli by the Sag Harbor Village Police Department.
Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pete Garypie said he was unable to comment on the case because of the notice of claim and the fact it involves a specific member of the department.
The Village of Sag Harbor Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a motion removing Ficorilli from the department rolls in May. Since then, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has recused himself from any action involving the situation as Ficorilli is in a personal relationship with Gilbride’s daughter.
Both Sag Harbor trustees Kevin Duchemin and Edward Gregory — also members of the fire department — said they, too, could not comment, citing the notice of claim.
According to Horn, he and his client did agree to a settlement which he said was proposed through a village attorney, but has not received a response in close to a month.
Horn declined to discuss the details of the settlement.
A second letter, agreeing with the notice of claim and criticizing fire department leadership, was sent to Duchemin in August by Steven Miller, a member of the Otter Hose house of the department.
According to Miller’s letter, a member of the department, presumed to be Ficorilli, was expelled for violating article 12, section1E of the fire department’s by-laws. Miller says the article states that defacing, injuring or appropriating illegally any property of the department calls for a punishment of a three-month suspension and replacement of that property.
Miller said the Otter House company questioned the expulsion in a letter to the board of wardens and he added that during the warden’s discussion of the letter, three wardens and a chief — none named — agreed there was a discrepancy. However, Ficorilli remained expelled.
On August 10, Miller says the Otter Hose captain was asked to advise another member of the company that he could be transferred from one company to another company in order to allow room for an expelled member to return. Miller says the company had already accepted a letter of resignation from the expelled member and questioned whether the move was made to cause “a hostile work environment within the company or companies or the department.”
According to Miller’s letter, department by-laws state once expelled, a member shall not be eligible for reinstatement.
Miller also charged that on August 1, he watched two chiefs place a cooler of beer in a fire truck — against the village board’s order prohibiting alcoholic beverages in village vehicles — and once advised, the chiefs’ moved the cooler to a chief’s vehicle — also owned by the village.
“At this time, we are going to be reviewing the substance of the letter and after we review everything we will take appropriate action,” said Chief Garypie on Wednesday, declining further comment until the department has fully researched all allegations.
According to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. the village board was poised to discuss the case during the executive session of its September meeting. However, with the recent resignation of trustee Tim Culver, the hospitalization of trustee Robby Stein after a bicycle accident and with Mayor Gilbride recusing himself from discussing the case, there was no action the board could take.
Thiele said the matter would be discussed either in executive session at a special village board meeting, yet to be scheduled, in September or in executive session at the board’s October meeting.