Southold Police Chief Suspended Amid Party Probe

Southold Town Police investigate Zoom bombings
Southold Town Police (Southold Town photo)

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley was suspended and Capt. James Ginas was named acting chief as an investigation heats up into the department’s alleged quashing of complaints over an officer’s retirement party.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell declined to confirm reports that Flatley was the employee that the town suspended on August 9 as the board ramps up its probe of the alleged mishandling of the party, but he did confirm that Ginas is currently serving as police chief. The town board passed a measure that advances the investigation into five employees during a meeting held the same day.

“We’ve appointed hearing officers who will serve as fact finders and present their case to the town board that sits as the judge and jury of those [police] officers’ actions,” Russell said at the meeting. “We will ultimately determine if discipline is warranted, and to what extent that discipline should be.”

The widely reported allegations center on police ignoring complaints that a large group of people attended a retirement party for then-Sgt. Steven Zuhoski, in violation of New York State social distancing mandates that were in effect during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Last month, town board members were briefed on the findings of an independent report on the allegations after town-contracted Justin Block of the Central Islip-based law firm of Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP completed his review of the claims.

During the most recent meeting, the town repeatedly refused to name the employee who was suspended. Multiple local news outlets later reported Flatley was the suspended employee. The Suffolk Times and Patch reported that Flatley’s suspension was directly related to the probe.

Town officials defended themselves against criticism of the slow pace of the probe. While noting that the disciplinary hearings are legally required to be conducted in private, several members of the board said that once the process is concluded, they would not oppose releasing the report on the findings.

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