George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” remains the book we turn to when truth is mutilated until it disappears.
The Town of East Hampton recently issued a proclamation hailing LTV, its public access TV channel, for 35 years of service “of growth and success.” Really? The town proclamation cut about 10 years out of the story like it never happened.
What was missing was a scandal chronicled only in The Independent. We revealed a decade-long pattern of spending abuse at LTV involving more than $10 million of taxpayers’ money under Jim Shelly, president and treasurer, and executive director Seth Redlus.
LTV purchased, at a significant cost, furniture from its executive director’s parents’ company and a professional fully stocked kitchen from Williams-Sonoma, Redlus’s high-end employer. State-of-the-art electronic equipment replaced functioning pieces that were never accounted for. Staff members came and went as they pleased, often “borrowing” expensive equipment to take with them. Redlus had his own business.
A lot of money spent by LTV went to the staff, family members of the executive director, and a friend of the general manager. Shelly responded by taking potshots at this newspaper and its editor in the other papers, with ugly name-calling and smug denials.
And then things finally began to come unhinged. A rudimentary audit by the town — instituted by persistent requests from this newspaper — revealed a need for inventory control. The bookkeeper came forward and met the Suffolk DA.
Then Shelly and board president Robert Strada clashed; we revealed how LTV execs routinely spent money at restaurants and used the company credit card. As we exclusively reported, $12,000 was given to an electrical contractor who wasn’t licensed to do electrical work.
Peter Van Scoyoc, the East Hampton Town Supervisor now and a town board member then, was the LTV liaison, with his son there as an “unpaid intern,” he said. The Independent produced a paycheck he received.
That was enough for the town to order an audit and for the Suffolk District Attorney to step in.
Redlus left the state. Shelly fired Strada and was forced out. Diana Weir was brought in to be the emergency “fixer.” The entire make-up of the LTV board changed. Only a face or two remain. Hopefully the station is on a new and improved pathway.
But this “proclamation,” this piece of paper, is being issued to erase the thousands of dollars unaccounted for and to enable the town to forget its culpability in the matter.