Tag Archive | "Brad Pinsky"

New Vote Set for January 20 in Bridgehampton

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Pinsky

John O’Brien, Phil Cammann and the district’s attorney Brad Pinsky discussed the vote at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Update, 10:15 a.m., December 11

By Stephen J. Kotz

The two candidates in the disputed Bridgehampton fire commissioner election have agreed to a rematch on January 20.

Results of Tuesday’s election were first delayed because of questions surrounding a confusing ballot. After John O’Brien was declared the winner by one vote over Phil Cammann, election workers, while reviewing voting records, raiseed the question of whether two voters who cast ballots lived in Bridgehampton.

Brad Pinsky, the district’s attorney, said it was determined that the two voters did not live in the district, throwing the outcome in doubt.

The two voters apparently voted for Mr. O’Brien becasue Mr. Pinsky said if only those two were thrown out, the election would have swung to Mr. Cammann. He added, though, that the results could have been challenged successfully in court, so both candidates agreed to the second runoff.

A second vote on a proposition to extend the vesting period for the district’s volunteer pension plan from one to five years of service has not yet been scheduled.

Voting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse.

Original story:

It’s a tie. We have a winner. No, wait a minute. Those were the messages coming from the Bridgehampton Fire District on Wednesday after election officials, citing a confusing ballot, were unable to declare a winner in the commissioner race that pitted former chief and longtime firefighter John O’Brien against paramedic Phil Cammann.

After a meeting with the two candidates, district secretary Barbara Roesel and the district’s attorney, Brad Pinsky, on Wednesday afternoon, poll workers Harry Halsey, Jean Smith and Barbara Damiecki, who reviewed three ballots that had given them pause Tuesday night, said they were ready to certify Mr. O’Brien the winner by a single vote over Mr. Cammann.

But less than a half hour later, Mr. Pinsky informed reporters covering the meeting by telephone that officials were questioning the residency of two voters. Given the razor sharp margin that had Mr. O’Brien receiving 91 votes and Mr. Cammann 90, that could force the whole election to be thrown out.

O'Brien

John O’Brien

Mr. Pinsky said he would research the district’s options but could not provide a timetable for when he would have an answer.

Earlier on Wednesday, after reviewing a number of ballots, Mr. Pinsky said the district would have to hold another vote on a proposition seeking to require that volunteers turn in five years of service before being vested in the district’s length of service pension plan. They are currently vested after only one year.

But the ballot, which directed voters to place a X or check mark “in front” of their choice, only had a line following the Yes line and nothing following the No line, making it difficult, if not impossible, for election officials to clearly decipher the intention of voters.

Earl Gandal, who ran unopposed for district clerk, received 108 votes, to win election, but there were 46 write-in votes, including 42 for outgoing Clerk Charles Butler, who was not seeking another term.

Late last year, the Board of Fire Commissioners, citing unspecified irregularities in bookkeeping procedures stripped Mr. Butler of most of his duties and his salary. He has since filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the district.

After the polls closed Tuesday night, officials spent nearly two hours counting and recounting the ballots before throwing up their hands in frustration, saying they had a tie vote, pending a ruling on three questionable ballots.

At one point, workers, who counted the ballots behind a closed door in the meeting room where the vote took place and barred the public from entering, said it appeared Mr. O’Brien had won by a single vote. After another count, they concluded it was a tie.

Before giving up, they called Mr. Pinsky, who lives in Syracuse, seeking his advice twice. The second time, he asked that someone call Mr. O’Brien’s home to summon him to the firehouse so he and Mr. Cammann, who was already present,  could take part in a conference call to try to declare a winner.

The candidates, Mr. Pinsky, who planned to be in Bridgehampton anyway, and election workers agreed to return to the firehouse at 1 p.m. on Wednesday to try to resolve the matter.

Phil Cammann

Phil Cammann

Mr. O’Brien said the problem surrounded a number of ballots that the workers thought might have to be thrown out because they were improperly filled out. Mr. O’Brien said there were cases in which voters tried to write in candidates but did not add an X or check mark after the name.

“If you wrote someone’s name, obviously you wanted to vote for them,” he said, suggesting that the whole election be declared null and void and a second vote be scheduled.

Mr. Cammann, who watched the vote counting with his father, Fred Cammann, and a reporter, said it came down to “maybe three ballots” that were questionable.

Mr. Cammann on Tuesday had pointed out problems with the ballot, including those with the proposition that Mr. Pinsky cited on Wednesday. Other problems. Mr. Cammann’s name was misspelled, and while voters were asked to mark with an X or check mark in front of the names of the candidates they supported, the blank line actually followed the candidates’ names. Mr. Gandal’s name had been handwritten on the original ballot, which was then copied for distribution to voters.

 

Treasurer Sues Bridgehampton Fire District for $40 Million in Federal Court

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Attorneys for Charles Butler, the longtime treasurer and former secretary of the Bridgehampton Fire District, filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking up to $40 million in damages for what they say was a concerted effort by the district’s fire commissioners to punish him and damage his reputation over his objection to the sale of fire district property.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by Lawrence Kelly of Bayport. Thomas Horn of Sag Harbor is also representing Mr. Butler.

On Wednesday, Mr. Horn said Mr. Butler’s troubles began last summer when he objected to the district’s decision to sell a 6,000-square-foot parcel bordering Wainscott Pond on Main Street in Wainscott for $940,000 to the billionaire Ronald Lauder, who has extensive land holdings around the pond. Mr. Horn said the board’s then chairman, Steven Halsey, wanted to sell the land to Mr. Lauder, while Mr. Butler opposed it, telling the commissioners during an open meeting that other bidders had offered as much as $70,000 more for the property.

What followed, according to Mr. Horn, was an effort, led by Mr. Halsey, to get rid of Mr. Butler by raising suspicions of financial wrongdoing on his part. Included in that campaign was an advertisement placed in The Southampton Press and East Hampton Star before a district election in December raising questions about Mr. Butler’s performance and outlining plans to save the district money by eliminating many of his paid job duties, he said.

“It’s clearly obvious that he had offended their plans to make sure Mr. Lauder got the property,” Mr. Horn said. “That’s a freedom of speech thing pure and simple.”

In December, voters approved the land sale but they elected Bruce Dombkowski, a write-in candidate, over Mr. Halsey and turned down a proposal to eliminate the elected treasurer’s position.

In January, Mr. Horn said, the fire commissioners did not reappoint Mr. Butler as secretary and illegally eliminated his salary as treasurer. He had been paid $60,000 plus benefits for both jobs.

Brad Pinsky, the fire district’s attorney, had a different take. After being hired last summer. Mr. Pinsky said he compiled 18 pages of “criticisms and strong concerns about the performance of the treasurer” during a financial review of the district.

The attorney, who said he will not represent the district in the lawsuit but be a witness on its behalf, said that while Mr. Butler has charged he was fired from his position as secretary, in reality he had stopped attending meetings or performing the duties of either of his two jobs in September.

He said Mr. Butler inappropriately solicited higher prices for the property that was being put up for sale after the district had received Mr. Lauder’s bid.

Mr. Pinsky also said district officials had found purchase orders for supplies presigned by merchants and alleged that Mr. Butler had used district money to purchase goods for his construction company.

“I brought these concerns to the full board in August. We could have made them public then, but we didn’t,” he said. “It had nothing to do with any real estate sale.”

“We have tried very hard to negotiate an end to this. We have offered to sit down together and find a way to work together, and we offered, for lack of a better word, a divorce if the relationship is something that can’t be repaired,” said Mr. Horn. “But they want their pound of flesh.”