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Following settlement, Southold keeps police officer whose ‘fitness for the job’ it had questioned

A Southold police officer, who the town sought to fire over a “neglect of duty,” will remain on the job on a probationary basis, according to a copy of a settlement agreement obtained by The Suffolk Times.

Officer Richard Jernick III, who was suspended without pay through Town Board resolution in December, faced possible termination of his employment for alleged “various acts of neglect of duty or dereliction in the performance of official duty, acts of disobedience or acts of delinquency” that may have “seriously” affected Officer Jernick’s general character and fitness for the job, the settlement agreement states. The document says the alleged indiscretions occurred in October 2020, though the version released under Freedom of Information laws Friday includes portions that have been heavily redacted by the town attorney’s office and raises no specific allegations in regard to the officer’s conduct.

Officer Jernick admitted to the allegations as part of the agreement signed Jan. 5 and has been returned to the force as a member of the ‘relief squad’ required to work 260 days per calendar year through 2025, according to the settlement. The relief squad typically rotates through the department to relieve officers who are out, undergoing training or injured, and do not have a specifically assigned schedule or sector.

As a penalty, Officer Jernick was required to forfeit 30 sick leave accruals, which may not be reaccumulated for payment purposes and he has been placed on a departmental probation until Dec. 31, 2025.

Under the terms of the agreement, Officer Jernick also agreed to waive his right to be considered for any promotions for the next five years and a letter of reprimand will be permanently placed in his personnel file. He will also be subject to retraining at the discretion of police chief Martin Flatley and also agreed not to bring a lawsuit against the town, police department and other related entities.

Multiple other stipulations included in the agreement were redacted, with the town attorney’s office citing section 89-2 of the Public Officers Law, which protects the privacy of a public employee.

In December, the Town Board convened for a special meeting, where members voted unanimously to suspend Officer Jernick without pay, pending the results of an investigation. The settlement agreement was approved by the board approved Jan. 19.