Featured Story

Town Board votes to terminate two Southold police officers on disability

Two Southold Town police officers who were receiving disability payments for several years after being injured on the job have been terminated, effective Tuesday, after the Town Board voted unanimously on resolutions terminating their employment for inability to perform their full duties.

“On behalf on the town, we wish that neither one of these police officers had gotten hurt on the job,” Richard Zuckerman, the town’s labor counsel, said Wednesday. “We wish that the doctors had cleared them to return to their full duties as town police officers, but the doctors, after all this time, have said that there’s no likelihood of them being able to do it and that means they are not able to perform their duties.”

The Town Board resolutions did not mention the officers by name, but listed each of their employee numbers which were found on public records by The Suffolk Times.  Joseph Wysocki’s name and employee number were linked on a 2009 payroll document. David Hunstein’s were matched on a 2011 police incident report.

Both Mr. Wysocki and Mr. Hunstein didn’t immediately return messages Wednesday night seeking comment.

The officers were the subjects of separate Section 75 hearings in February, according to the resolutions. Under state civil service law, such hearings occur when a public employee is being subjected to a disciplinary charge. On June 14 and June 26, a hearing officer recommended Mr. Wysocki and Mr. Hunstein be found guilty of being unable to perform their duties. The hearing officer further recommended each be “terminated from his employment,” according to the resolution.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell declined to be interviewed for this story.

Mr. Russell in his 2016 State of the Town address, highlighted the town’s difficulty in making disability payments to the two officers, naming them directly in his speech.

Mr. Wysocki was injured in 2010 and, up to that point, it cost about $940,000 to pay his full salary tax free along with benefits, Mr. Russell said in the 2016 speech. Mr. Hunstein has been out of work since 2012 and had cost the town about $600,000 to that point, the supervisor said during his address.

Those figures did not “begin to calculate” the amount of overtime needed to fill the officers’ time slots and costs to hire new officers to replace them, Russell said during the address.

The supervisor has called for a limit on disability leave.

“Currently, the leave is open-ended, which can sometimes go on for years,” Mr. Russell said during his address. “Establishing a limit of 24 months is more than enough time to determine if an officer is able to go back to active duty or not. If he or she can’t, disability retirement approval should be declared and the disability retirement application should be approved expeditiously.”

[email protected]

File photo credit: The Suffolk Times